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Santiago: Thousands in Zamboanga City tents since 2013

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 02:29 AM January 03, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–Thousands of people continue to live in tents more than a year after followers of Muslim leader Nur Misuari attacked Zamboanga City in September 2013.

And Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago wants to know why. Santiago is seeking an inquiry into the rehabilitation of the people displaced by the siege of Zamboanga City to get answers.

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“It is imperative for Congress to ensure that public funds, including those received as aid from foreign governments, are properly used to swiftly deliver much needed social services,” Santiago said in Senate Resolution No. 1061.

Santiago said US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg found the resettlement program for the displaced moving slowly during a visit to Zamboanga City in November.

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Quoting Goldberg, Santiago said many still lived in a stadium, even after the United States had extended humanitarian assistance for the resettlement of the displaced through the city government.

On a posting on its website, Refugees International reported that tens of thousands remained displaced, “living in deplorable conditions” in Zamboanga City.

“Having endured overcrowded, unsanitary and unsafe evacuation centers in which they initially sought refuge, they now are being sent to transitional sites that lack water, health, education and livelihood,” the group said.

Halt transfer

The organization recommended that the city government halt the transfer to transitional sites “until humanitarian standards are met.”

It pressed the national government to provide financial support to allow the Zamboanga City government to deal with the humanitarian and recovery needs of the people displaced by three weeks of fighting between government forces and rebels from Misuari’s faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2013.

“Rather than continuing to neglect their urgent needs, the Philippine government, with the support of the United Nations and donors, must prioritize finding durable solutions for Zamboanga’s forgotten IDPs and recognize that doing so is an important step in the region’s peace and reconciliation process,” it said.

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As the government failed to meet its Dec. 15 deadline for moving the displaced out of the Zamboanga Grandstand, more than 1,300 families remained there, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman has said.

She attributed the delay to a “setback” in the construction of houses.

The National Housing Authority (NHA) aims to complete the permanent shelters by mid-2015. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) intends to relocate all the evacuees by this month.

Misuari followers

Followers of Misuari, founding chair of the MNLF who was opposed to the peace talks between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), attacked seaside villages in Zamboanga City in September 2013 but were stopped and trapped in those villages by government forces.

President Aquino flew to Zamboanga City to oversee the military operations to flush out Misuari’s followers. Three weeks of fighting left 200 dead, and forced close to 120,000 people to flee their homes.

Misuari, who felt left out of the talks between the government and the MILF, was suspected of instigating the attack. He fled the country after the attack failed.

The government and the MILF signed a peace agreement in March last year, ending four decades of conflict in Mindanao that left more than 150,000 people dead.

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TAGS: displaced victims, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, MNLF, Siege, tents, Zamboanga City
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