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Preparation for graduation: Iligan wants Marawi evacuees out

/ 05:30 AM March 24, 2018

A volunteer helps fill a warehouse in Iligan City with rice for evacuees from Marawi City, which was heavily damaged by fighting between government soldiers and Islamic State followers. —JEOFFREY MAITEM

ILIGAN CITY—The city government wants city facilities, including gymnasiums, cleared of evacuees from Marawi City by March 31 for schools’ graduation rites.

Mayor Celso Regencia said he had talked with Housing Assistant Secretary Felix Castro Jr., field office manager of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), to clear the facilities of evacuees but Castro had appealed for an extension of the deadline.

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“We understand that because children of evacuees were still attending classes here,” Regencia said at a press conference here by the TFBM, which had been formed to supervise rehabilitation efforts in Marawi.

Appeal for extension

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Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra said he asked for the deadline extension because the Marawi City government had to prepare areas where evacuees would be relocated after their eviction from Iligan.

Gandamra said he asked Regencia to move the deadline to April 15.

At least 5,000 displaced residents of Marawi were still in evacuation centers in Iligan.

Gandamra said moving them back to Marawi was not easy.

The evacuees had been staying in the auditorium of Iligan City Fisheries High School in the village of Buru-un, the village auditorium of Buru-un, the auditorium of the village of Maria Cristina and the gymnasium of Sta. Elena village.

Better facilities

“We are thankful to Mayor Regencia for accommodating our people here and we understand that they needed the facilities for the graduation rites,” Gandamra said.

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But the Marawi mayor said he hoped Regencia would also understand the evacuees’ predicament.

“I will cross the bridge when I get there,” Regencia said when asked about Gandamra’s request.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the government continued to address the plight of evacuees, including moving them to better resettlement areas.

He said as of March 20, at least 1,648 families were still in 52 evacuation centers in parts of Central Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development had already spent P322 million on the needs of 27,770 families who had already returned to Marawi, according to Andanar.

The TFBM said the UN World Food Programme had also recently conducted a feeding program for students of Camp Bagong Amai Pakpak Elementary School as part of its Emergency School Meals Project.

Japanese donation

The Japanese government, through Ambassador Koji Haneda, had turned over 27 sets of brand new heavy equipment to the TFBM to be used by the Department of Public Works and Highways during the rehabilitation phase, which could start by April.

Andanar said the US Agency for International Development (USAID) also announced a new assistance package, amounting to P100 million, for the purchase of 1.8 million kilograms of rice for evacuees.

“The donation would be enough to feed 45,000 people for four months,” said Andanar of the USAID funding.

He said assistance from the US government had already reached P1.2 billion.

Based on a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 139 organizations were currently involved in aid work in Marawi. —DIVINA SUSON

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TAGS: Graduation, Iligan, Marawi, Mindanao
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