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Gatchalian calls for all-out relief ops for Marawi evacuees

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Evacuees from Marawi City find refuge at the Maria Cristina covered court in Iligan City, 5 June 2017, which lies 30 kilometers north from their hometown, after a crossfire between government forces and local terrorists called the Maute Group displaced most of its more than 200,000 residents to different parts of the region. Senator Win Gatchalian has called for massive humanitarian efforts for the people of Marawi. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian on Thursday called on the national government to intensify relief operations at evacuation centers near Marawi City as more than 200,000 Filipinos have been displaced by the ongoing battle between government forces and the Maute terrorist group.

Gatchalian, who traveled within just three kilometers of the Marawi City limits last Monday to distribute relief assistance and to dialogue with local leaders, stressed that the protracted conflict could result in a serious humanitarian crisis without strong intervention from the national government.

“It was heartbreaking to see how much innocent civilians are suffering because of the conflict. At this point, hygiene and sanitation have already become major problems in the evacuation centers. The government must move quickly to deliver comfort and aid to our countrymen, who have been forced from their homes and stripped of their livelihood because of the ongoing conflict,” said Gatchalian.

According to Gatchalian, local government units in the area have taken the lead so far in mobilizing relief operations for internally displaced persons (IDPs). However, these are small LGUs with limited resources that may run out soon.

“I am calling on the Department of Social Welfare and Development to take the lead in mobilizing as many resources as we can to conduct an all-out humanitarian relief campaign. The people of Marawi have already lost so much from this terrible conflict. They deserve our complete and unwavering support at this crucial moment,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian, who served Valenzuela City for fifteen years as mayor and congressman of its first district, joined city officials in distributing PHP 3 million worth of relief assistance donated to Marawi evacuees by the Valenzuela City Government.

The relief goods were distributed at evacuation centers in the towns of Balo-I and Saguiaran, the latter a mere five-minute drive away from Marawi City.

The senator also visited the Iligan Command Center, Marawi Operation Center and Taraka Operation Center in Iligan City to discuss the situation on the ground with police and local government officials, including Mayor Majul Gandamra of Marawi City and Mayor Celso Regencia of Iligan City.