MANILA, Philippines – A number of evacuees have been forced to stay in fishing boats due to clashes between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City, said a non-government organization Thursday on Radyo Inquirer 990AM.
Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) executive director Zainudin Malang said their latest count of internally displaced people (IDPs) staying at the local sports stadium was close to 14,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.
“What is sad is that some of them are sleeping in boats,” he said.
Malang on Facebook posted a photo showing “their de facto evacuation camp on the water, off shore along Zamboanga City’s seaside boulevard.”
MinHRAC’s latest “alert” posted on their website said that as of Wednesday morning, “2 boatloads of trapped residents of Barangay (village) Mariki, east of the front line and east of the city hall, managed to reach the encampment along the seaside boulevard, west of the city hall. More boats arriving. The earlier batches of IDPs spent the night on their boats and on the pavement along the boulevard.”
On Wednesday, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in a statement said 14,322 people or 3,013 families were displaced by the firefights with 5,632 individuals or 1,226 families staying in 15 evacuation centers.
Malang said there is a great need for a humanitarian corridor that would allow the affected residents, especially those from the villages of Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo, Mariki at Talon-Talon, to safely flee to evacuation centers.
“Many want to evacuate…because first of all they are in danger and they have nothing to eat anymore,” he said.
The MinHRAC head said the only way for them to flee is by roads, which is dangerous because it is within the line of fire, or by water.
“But not all are near the coast. Not all have boats,” he said.
Malang appealed to the MNLF and the government to consider the safety of the people they both swore to protect.
He also said the government should set up a hotline where people can call anytime and get assistance.