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BASILAN – The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said it is providing assistance to over 2,000 people displaced by an intensified military operation against rebels in Basilan province in southern Philippines.

Jo Henry, communications officer of the ARMM – Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (HEART), said regional officials led by ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman visited the affected communities and distributed relief goods and food packs to displaced families.

The operation against lawless elements was launched following a suicide attack that left 11 people dead in Lamitan City on July 31.

Nurin Salih, municipal social welfare officer, said 705 families from different villages, including Tuburan Proper, Languyan, Langgung and Buton were affected by the military operation. “A total of 2,181 individuals fled their homes for fear of being hurt during firefight,” said Salih.

Jamar Jamiri, Tuburan Proper village chieftain, said some 385 families in his village were trapped and could not leave their homes since the operation started and are in danger of being caught in the crossfire. “Nahihirapan po yung mga pamilyang apektado ng operation dahil simula nung umpisa, hindi na nakalabas yung mga kababayan natin dito sa Tuburan Proper,” he said, adding, their livelihood was affected as well.

“Nahinto ang kanilang kabuhayan at yun iba hindi na makapunta sa bukid habang ang iba hindi na makapangisda,” he said.

Jamiri is among the thousands of individuals affected by the military operation.

Task Force Basilan Commander Col. Fernando Reyeg, however, assured displaced residents of their safety and that they could now return home.

Hataman earlier condemned the senseless attack and vowed to exert every effort to help the families affected by the incident. “We will strengthen efforts to secure our region without compromising the rights of the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Last April, the regional government launched a reintegration program dubbed Program Against Violent Extremism (PAVE) aimed at solving the issue of the growing number of terrorist groups in the region.

Divided into three pillars namely good governance, effective law enforcement, and community participation, PAVE is the first of its kind in the history of ARMM and is the regional government’s response to prevent rebel returnees from going back to lawless activities through the provision of opportunities to start anew. (Bureau of Public Information)


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