Editorial

Humanitarian crisis

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Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin declared “mission accomplished” in Zamboanga City on Friday with the rescue of the remaining hostages of Habier Malik’s band, but the conflict that started on Sept. 9 has resulted in what the United Nations termed a “humanitarian crisis.”

How are the 118,819 men, women and children displaced by the fighting and crammed in 35 evacuation centers to pick up the pieces of their lives? For an idea of the extent of the residents’ suffering, at one point in the three-week conflict more than 50,000 people packed the city’s Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex, the biggest evacuation center, presenting a logistical nightmare to the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local and international humanitarian agencies.

Late last week, Luiza Carvalho, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in the Philippines, issued a statement expressing her agency’s “increasing alarm” at “the situation and the growing needs of the people caught up in the violence.” She said the UN was “particularly concerned for the most vulnerable, especially the wellbeing of women and children.”

The UN has reason to be alarmed. The fighting between government troops and the Malik-led renegades belonging to the Misuari Group of the Moro National Liberation Front has forced the displaced families to make do with the barest of provisions and sanitation facilities. The miserable conditions inevitably led to the spread of disease—notably measles and chicken pox, extremely communicable diseases especially in dense populations—at the sports complex. Last week, a two-month-old baby died from severe dehydration at the complex, according to Fr. Eduardo Vasquez. “Even the mother could barely walk, probably out of exhaustion,” he said.

“We are particularly concerned that aid is delivered in an impartial manner, with the needs of the most vulnerable met and those outside the evacuation centers not forgotten. The United Nations calls on all parties to uphold the principles of impartiality, humanity, neutrality and independence,” said Carvalho.

Expectedly, the schooling of some 12,000 public school children in Zamboanga has been badly disrupted. It will take three months for the schools in the war zone to resume regular classes, according to Assistant Education Secretary Rey Laguda. But he said the Department of Education would use “alternative delivery modes” for the four affected public schools and would immediately “take into account each and every learner.”

Officials say nine civilians (including children), 19 soldiers, five policemen, and 138 rebels were killed, and 57 civilians, 167 soldiers and 14 policemen were wounded in 19 days of fighting. The extent of the devastation is grimly illustrated by news photographs and footage showing soldiers wearing gas masks and residents overcome by the stench of decaying corpses. As many as 223 renegades have been captured and 52 have surrendered. And Zamboanga Hermosa lies in ruins, literally and figuratively, its future prospects in danger. “There’s only one word to describe what is happening in the city—catastrophic,” Zamboanga City Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Cholo Soliven has remarked. “[O]ur economy is bleeding.”

Gazmin said government forces had rescued a total of 194 hostages, with the troops now conducting a “direct action” to hunt down Malik and the rest of the renegades. Rebellion and other charges are being prepared by the Department of Justice against Nur Misuari and his commanders. But apart from these efforts, it behooves the government to also look into the renegades’ claims that they had been promised money and munitions to do havoc in Zamboanga. More important, where did the money to initiate and sustain the renegades’ incursion come from?

President Aquino is said to have earmarked P3 billion for the rebuilding of Zamboanga. “This is a huge challenge to us but the government is making sure that the early recovery and rehabilitation efforts are well organized and systematic,” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman has said. But if the root of this crisis is not addressed once and for all, and if the parties responsible for this costly and unforgivable adventure are not immediately and justly punished, all those efforts will be for naught.

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  • lapasan

    The media should be fair. It should not treat the MNLF and the government to be equally culpable for the crisis. The MNLF members were the one who started the attack on the beautiful and historic city of the Zamboanga. They wanted to carve a territory in the Philippines which they claim as historically belonging to them, but that is highly debatable. When they started killing people, making civilians as hostage and using them as human shield and burning houses, they are no longer a liberation forces fighting for a cause but plain and simple terrorists. What should the government do if they disrespect the sovereignty of the country and terrorize its law abiding citizens? Should the government just cower in fear and leave them alone? If not for these troublemakers Mindanao could have been a prosperous place. It has lot to offer on tourism, agriculture and it is abundant in mineral resources. Instead of sowing terror to the peaceful and prosperous cities of Mindanao, why can’t Misuari and his groups just focus on the economic development of their region particularly ARMM which is one of the poorest in the Philippines. Misuari was given his chance to govern and develop the region but he blew his opportunity.

    • Fulpol

      terrorists??

      what an idiot..

  • Fulpol

    . But if the root of this crisis is not addressed once and for all, and if the parties responsible for this costly and unforgivable adventure are not immediately and justly punished, all those efforts will be for naught.

    —————————–

    when Erap attacked MILF main camp, the MILF got vulnerable.. when Arroyo came to power, she re-installed MILF camp and created peace talk with the group..

    then MILF just the only group given attention.. BS Aquino-Makapili III even justified by saying that he is just maintaining the process of peace talks made by her predecessor, Arroyo..

    where is MNLF?? Arroyo jailed Nur Misuari for rebellion.. but later, freed him.. BS Aquino-Makapili III meanwhile is taking his time to eliminate the group, to avoid threatening the peace talk with MILF..

    MNLF, the former enemy of Marcos, now the enemy of Pilipino people, instigated by yellow fundamentalist and yellow media??

  • Fulpol

    humanitarian crisis….

    Fidel Ramos might took the other options: diplomacy, negotiation..

    BS Aquino-Makapili III took the military action.. the purpose: to annihilate the group..

    Fidel Ramos, a former soldier and had experiences in war… might understand the repercussions of war created by “rebellion”..

    who created the humanitarian crisis?? the yellow fundamentalists and yellow media blamed the MNLF group…

    but you see, there is other mode to resolved the issue.. only that the Malaysian special agent BS Aquino-Makapili III took the military action to deliberately annihilate the group…

    who is to blame for the humanitarian crisis?? no other than the Malaysian special agent…

  • Fulpol

    MILF by Gloria Arroyo and BS Aquino-Makapili III is supported by Malaysia and US..

    MNLF is a threat..
    Sultanate of Sulu is a threat..
    now BIFF is a threat..

    the teacher (Arroyo) and student (Aquino) are doggies…

  • isidro c. valencia

    For more than three decades, the civil war in Mindanao has resulted to “humanitarian crisis.”

    And what has the United Nations been doing to avert this crisis? NONE. Only now by simply uttering “humanitarian crisis.” I have been proposing for the nth times that United Nations should make “paki alam,” but my voice is like “echoing in the wilderness.”

    While P-Noy undertook his own style of solving the crisis, you can expect collateral and calibrated damages (psychologically, economically, and politically).

    Let us stretch our imagination. What if NUR et al won this last battle? That would be a psychological win for these people, then, it will wage or expand its forces to neighboring areas like Davao, Bukdinon, Surigao, Agusan then Visayas, later on Luzon.

    Then, more people will be displaced, more people will be killed, more tourists will not come to the Philippines, more investors will invest in other parts of the world not in the Philippines.

    But that is good, taking its positive angle. P-Noy could declare REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT. He can declare Martial Law (only in Mindanao). He can abolish the House and Senate. He can initiate reforms in the Government without hindrance.

    He can immediately arrest and jail those Congressmen and Senators, and government officials who sucked the blood of the Filipino people.

    We need a strong arm (in the like of Marcos) and heart (in the like of Cory) to promote radical change. The Church hierarchies , the Government People, the most importantly the Filipino should be purged. A CATHARSIS FOR OUR NATION.
    TOTAL PURGING FOR FILIPINOS IN HEART AND MIND.

    And P-Noy has the DNA to do it.

    • spiritnsoul700

      Is there a UN humanitarian refugee Camps operating in the Philippines ? … I think not

      Was there one during the Vietnam War?. I’m not sure but i think there wasn’t, instead there were UN Humanitarian camps and still existing and operating till to date in countries like Thailand Malaysia Solomon Islands.Australia.

      But I do agreed with your comment that the root of the problem has to be solve once and for all, There are only two options in avoid bloodbath, so that history does not repeat itself again, In both option, the rebels must lay down their arms and the two options are either Peace ( through negotiating ) or War., The Philippines internal war conflicts if not the longest then it is one of the longest in history and the infighting is still going on

      It is also accurate in your posting that these is one of the reasons why foreign investors avoid investing in the Philippines, tourists stay away from the Philippines, Ask a foreigner in his country who has never step into Philippines and the first impression he has is ,” Aww not the Philippines, its a dangerous place “, His thoughts also reflect the time when he read /heard Abu Sayyaf brutality deeds- kidnapped butchered and beheaded innocent tourists. These murderers still exist and roam freely.

      The lame of excuse i hear from Filipinos that it only happen in the south which bear no weighs in enticing tourists into the country. really, cos in tourists mind, it is the Philippines responsibility to seriously address such issues, and your comment is two thumbs raised in my views

  • farmerpo

    ” P3 billion for the rebuilding of Zamboanga”

    compared to 10B for the relocation of ‘informal settlers’ in Metro Manila.
    Would you ever wonder why there is rebellion in Mindanao??
    Malampaya Funds should be dedicated to Mindanao, to fast track it. It is the future of the entire country, whether we realize or not.

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