PRRD offers genuine political autonomy to the Bangsamoro people

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte vowed to support the creation of a genuine political entity for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.

In a speech during the turn-over ceremony of the proposed draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Malacañang on Monday, President Duterte went beyond his prepared speech to express his commitment for the enactment of the bill as this will address historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.

“I will support and husband this instrument as it goes in the legislation for its consideration,” Duterte, who hailed from Mindanao, said.

“There will be no objections of the provisions of all that is consistent with the constitution and aspirations of the Moro people.”

“I am for this, within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country,” he vowed.

The President said the event “marks a new milestone in our history that stand as proof of our resolve to set aside our differences and stand united to achieve a common goal of peace.”

The BBL is part of the process to implement the political track of the peace deal – Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro – signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

The 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has formally submitted to the President the enhance draft of the basic law which aims to provide a genuine political power for the Bangsamoro to govern over their ancestral lands in Mindanao.

This is the second submission after the previous congress failed to pass the BBL.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel earlier said that they aim to enact the bill within the year.

The passage of the BBL will signal the creation of a new Bangsamoro government with a parliamentary-form structure to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority will manage the new autonomous region.

President Duterte said the passage of the bill “is a significant step forward in our quest to end centuries of hatred, mistrust, and injustice that caused and affected the lives of millions of Filipinos.”

“The draft BBL embodies our shared aspiration of a peaceful, orderly and harmonious nation after decades of armed struggle and violence, we will come up with a constitutionally consistent legal instrument that will lay the foundation for establishing the real and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

The President emphasized that the government is mandated to establish a genuine autonomy for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao under the current constitution.

“The proposed BBL puts into life and spirit the constitutional mandate provided in the 1987 constitution for the establishment of a truly autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

“This paves the way for meeting the just aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination, and that is consistent and reflective of the distinct historical cultural heritage and economic and social structures common to the people residing in the Bangsamoro,” he added.

“The draft bill jointly written by our Muslim, Christian, Lumad brothers and sisters shall give rise to a genuine autonomous region as well as to bring forth healing and reconciliation to the historical injustices commitment against the Bangsamoro people,” Duterte said.

“Indeed the entire country will benefit from it along with the region of the Bangsamoro people. May this new entity be marked by good governance, equitable sharing of wealth and generation of revenue, and normalize stable environment.”

For his part, presidential peace adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza urged the public to support the process “in realizing the aspirations of the Bangsamoro”

“Be with us still as we continue to surmount the more important challenges that we face in bringing peace and development in the land,” he said.

“We have gone this far, different governments in the past have built the foundations, layer upon layer, that has brought us today to where we are.”

MILF chairman Al Haj Ebrahim Murad expressed his appreciation to Dureza “for recommending to the President the certifying of the BBL as an urgent bill during his endorsement to congress.”

He said the MILF has high hopes for the President to “shepherd the passage of this law, and see through the establishment of the Bangsamoro government.”

“Mr. President, we hear you speak the historical injustice committed against our people and we marvel at the ease which you narrate the historical basis of our cause, today at a crucial moment in our history, you have been given the unique privilege of correcting that historical injustice by entrenching the aspiration of our people through the enactment of this Bangsamoro Basic Law.

BTC Chair Ghadzali Jaafar believed that under the Duterte administration, “we would see the dawning of the establishment of the government in Bangsamoro homeland, which they truly deserved.”

Murad bats that the BBL will serve as the antidote to the growing concerns over violent extremism, particularly in Mindanao.

“We watched at the utter disgust over the distractions in Marawi City that violent extremism has inflicted,” he said.

“The danger of violent extremism is that it feeds over the frustration of our people and take over the narrative of historical injustices so that it can justify the violent ideology in which reality is never linked to aspiration of our people,” he said.

But because it exploits the narrative of historical injustice, it is important to address legitimate grievances and correct historical injustice so that it will be denied any semblance of legitimacy,” he added.###

Marawi residents overcoming difficulties amid crisis

MARAWI CITY – “Business is brisk,” said 29-year-old trader Samer Bauc, as he wrapped eggs for a buyer, who is also a fellow internally displaced individual (IDPs).

“This is the only way to forget the tragic incident that is besetting our city,” Bauc said, referring to the makeshift store he had set-up inside the building they call “Titanic” because of its sheer size.

The infrastructure has now turned into a massive evacuation camp at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol grounds, which Bauc, along with other 400 IDPs, has been staying in since the fighting erupted between government forces and radical Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups on May 23.

“When the fighting began, we did not immediately flee. We were hopeful that the crisis will end within two to three days.  But when the military started its bomb runs on the third day, that’s the time we realized we need to get out of our house,” he recalled.

“This is my first time to experience the brunt of war. My little store helps me overcome the trauma,” he said as he keeps himself busy day-in and day-out “or else I might go crazy.”

Several makeshift stores sprung up at the evacuation centers, which is a testament of the resiliency of the Maranaos. These stores also brought respite to the needs of the evacuees.

“There are personal things that are not part of the aid assistance being provided by the government and other humanitarian agencies,” said an evacuee, who only identified himself as Norman.

“We can easily buy some of the basic everyday necessities without the need to go out of the city,” he said.

One can find a variety of goods being sold at these makeshift stores, from fresh vegetables, eggs, bread, instant coffee, candies and other sweets for children, to kitchen wares and mats.

Another entrepreneur Aida Panginuma, 52, noted that trading has been in their culture.

“There is always a positive way to deal with every crisis,” she explained as she opened few cartons she bought at the nearby town of Baloi in Lanao del Norte to restock her goods at the evacuation site.

She said they are not taking advantage of the situation and the prices have remained affordable.

Panginuma said she is maintaining a stall inside Padian, the city’s main market, but only managed to bring some of her goods in the evacuation site.

“We were preparing for the holy month of Ramadan, when we’re struck by the fighting,” she recalled, noting she stockpiled more than P1-million worth of goods in her store.

“I’m hopeful that my store is still intact. I look forward that after this crisis, we can all move forward and rebuild this beautiful city again,” she said.

Panginuma admitted that life in the evacuation center is hard but “there’s nothing we could do but to carry on living.”

“At the end of the day, we need to rely on each other and help ourselves,” she said.

Aida said she saw some of the Maute members ransacked other stalls in the public market. “Although, they did not harm us, but the effects they brought to our city is devastating,” she said.

Another evacuee, Alexander Alaga, said the stores inside the evacuation camps also serve as their mini cafeterias where they share their stories and comfort each other.

“We kept on praying this crisis will end soon. We are preparing ourselves, emotionally, on how to confront the destructions left by this armed conflict,” he said. ###

 

 

Humanitarian aid flows through Malabang ‘Peace Corridor’

RAMAIN, LANAO DEL SUR – Seven trucks filled with relief goods arrived at this lakeside community which has for the past month become a safe haven for civilians fleeing the armed conflict in Marawi City.

As the trucks pulled up inside the grounds of the municipal capitol that has been converted into an evacuation center, personnel of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) unloaded hundreds of boxes containing foldable jerrycans, mosquito nets, blankets, mats and kitchen ware.

The relief packages were systematically distributed to more than 2,600 families who have been displaced by the armed hostilities.

Despite the bristling heat of the noonday sun, the faces of the evacuees – majority of them women with children in tow – lit up, as they received the relief packs.

The ICRC is among the first international humanitarian organizations that have entered this remote, hinterland municipality since the crisis broke out on May 23.

Ramain is considered a military hotspot not only due to its proximity to Marawi, but also because it reportedly has been used as an escape route of members of the Maute group.

The ICRC was accompanied by members of the Joint Coordination, Monitoring and Action Center (JCMAC), who facilitated the safe passage of the humanitarian convoy across the 80-kilometer route from Malabang to Ramain.

Tomoku Matsuzawa, ICRC head of office, expressed her organization’s gratitude for the assistance provided by the JCMAC.

The JCMAC, which has two offices – one in Malabang and another in Marawi – was established under the Peace Corridor initiative of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro International Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Implementing Panels.

The Peace Corridor, which opened on June 4, aims to provide a safe zone for civilians fleeing the conflict, and a secure avenue where humanitarian assistance can pass through.

To date, the Peace Corridor initiative has helped 277 trapped civilians escape from the conflict zone to safer ground.

“We appreciate the help given to us by JCMAC, particularly in advising us where to pass and in clearing the convoy’s route. Otherwise, we would be held up for hours at the various checkpoints along the way,” Matsuzawa explained.

She said that although the ICRC does not ask for military escorts due to protocols it must strictly observe, the group closely coordinates with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), as well as provincial and municipal government units whenever its staff enter an area.

Aside from the relief packages, the ICRC has set up toilets and wash areas in Ramain and the neighboring municipality of Saguiaran, which also has a huge number of evacuees.

“We set up these facilities so people can take a bath and wash their clothes,” Matsuzawa said, adding that the ICRC regularly dispatches a fire truck capable of providing 10,000 liters of water a day to the evacuation sites.

The ICRC also helps family members who have been separated during the conflict to find and reunite with each other.

“On behalf of the evacuees, we communicate with their families and set up the reunification point,” Matsuzawa said.

This is what they have done for a number of evacuees from Marawi who were finally reunited with their loved ones in Iligan after weeks of separation.

Meanwhile, the ICRC official noted that the key in ensuring the success of ongoing relief operations is the “speed, timeliness and the ability of donor agencies to appropriately respond to the various needs of the people.”

“We are very happy to help the government in providing for the needs of the evacuees,” Matsuzawa said. “And if there are other needs we can support, we are very much willing to fill in that gap.” ###

 

Roses for peace on Eid’l Ftr

BURU-UN, LANAO DEL NORTE – Roses for Peace on Eid’l  Fitr as intense gun battles continued to erupt in the heart of Marawi City, a celebration was taking place in the open grounds of the Iligan City National School of FIsheries which served as an evacuation center for civilians who fled the armed conflict.

The mood was festive, as the more than 180 families who have been living in the evacuation center for a month commemorated Eid al-Fitr, or the end of the observance of Ramdhan.

But what struck a sensitive chord among the hundreds of people gathered at the site was the exchange of roses between the Christian and Muslim evacuees.

Muslim women broke down in tears, as their Christian counterparts embraced and handed them flowers, symbolizing love and the joyous and conciliatory atmosphere at the center.

In the meantime, children ran across the school’s grassy fields, as a group of men roasted a cow which would later on be shared among the evacuees.

In her remarks during a brief program at the site, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Diosita Andot who spoke on behalf of Secretary Jesus Dureza, underscored the importance of the celebrations in light of the ongoing crisis in Marawi.

“This event is very important for all of us, as it is an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to show their solidarity in the face of conflict,” Andot said.

She noted that there are forces that want to drive a wedge between Muslims and Chrisrians.

“Although there are those who say that the armed hostilities will pull Christians and Muslims apart, we believe that we shall remain united as brothers and sisters,” Andot said.

She cited numerous reports wherein Muslims helped Christians escape from the conflict zone.

“Our Muslim brothers were not afraid to put their lives on the line for the sake of friendship and unity,” Andot said.

On June 4, the Peace Corridor, a collaborative effort between the Implementing Panels of the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberarion Front (MILF), was opened in Marawi.

The Peace Corridor aims to provide safe passage for civilians fleeing the conflict, and secure area for humanitarian assistance to enter the conflict zone.

To date, the initiative has facilitated the escape of 277 residents who have been trapped in the conflict zone for weeks.

Andot quoted Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza who earlier said that people, regardless of their religious beliefs, must not allow fear and hatred to cloud their good judgement.

“If we let this to happen, our enemies would succeed in their goal of destroying the good relations that have been established between Muslim and Christians,” she said.

Andot stresed that Muslims and Christians must therefore work hand in hand in further strenghening the bonds of unity and friendship, and pushing forward the national government’s peace agenda.

The OPAPP is currently conduting a series of “social healing” activities in Lanao del Norte that aim to restore trust and respect among the different ethno-religious groups in the affected areas.

A key feature of these healing efforts are informal conversations that would be conducted in clusters or small groups to be facilitated by imams, ulamas and other Muslim leaders and volunteers. ###

Sec. Dureza: Social healing must start now

BURU-UN, LANAO DEL NORTE – “Let us not allow this crisis to break the bonds of friendship and unity we have painstakingly built among us. We are all brothers and sisters. Let us all unite.”
This was the message of Presidential Assistant for Peace Process Jesus Dureza to the hundreds of civilians who have been staying for weeks in a gymnasium here after being displaced by the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.
Dureza, accompanied by OPAPP Undersecretaries Nabil Tan and Diosita Andot and Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso, led the distribution of assistance packages for Muslim evacuees to celebrate “Iftar” or breaking of the fast.
The relief packages, which are expected to benefit around 5,797 evacuees, included “moknas” or the traditional prayer garb used by Muslim women, malongs, prayer tents and a variety of food items.
“There are those who want to destroy our relations and turn us against each other. Let us not allow this to happen,” he said in Filipino, as the huge crowd of men, women and children gathered at the evacuation site cheered in agreement.
According to Dureza, there are internal and external forces that are determined to sow fear and discord among the civilian population.
But he stressed that these peace spoilers will never win, as long as the Filipino people remain united and don’t give in to the culture of hatred being espoused by these radical elements.
“If we give in to fear, this means that we have already lost the battle. We should not allow them to win,” Dureza said.
He therefore called on the people to be more vigilant, as this will be the key in preventing incidents such as the Marawi crisis from happening again.  Dureza cited the residents of Bohol who immediately reported to authorities the suspicious-looking individuals who had set foot on their shores.
As a result, security forces were able to contain the armed group and prevented them from wreaking havoc in the community.
In the meantime, the presidential adviser called on the people of Lanao to work towards rebuilding socio-cultural relationships that were damaged by the armed hostilities.
Dureza explained that this is the reason OPAPP is implementing a series of “social healing” activities that aim to restore trust and respect among the different ethno-religious groups in the affected areas.
“The healing must start with us and it must begin now,” he said.
Dureza noted that a key feature of these healing efforts are informal conversations that would be conducted in clusters or small groups to be facilitated by imams, ulamas and other Muslim leaders and volunteers.
He noted these conversations would allow victims to express their anxieties and grievances, as well as raise important concerns with the government.
Moreover, these discussions would help gather inputs that would aid the government in crafting early recovery programs for the affected areas.
“We would like to know how all of you feel and find out how the government can help you in recovering from this crisis,” he said.
Dureza emphasized that the assistance provided by the government to the affected residents is only temporary and will eventually come to an end once the crisis is over.
This is the reason, he said, why the residents need to learn livelihood skills that would allow them to earn a living while they are still staying at the evacuation centers. ###

Peace Warrior

It is said that adversity can bring out the best or the worse in people.

This has been the case for the residents of Marawi who have been caught in the crossfire between government forces and the Maute group which laid siege to the city almost a month ago.

Ali Asgar Solaiman, a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a native of Marawi, related that the crisis has become a “very emotional” issue not only for him but for his comrades who have witnessed the ravages of war for decades.

“I still could not hold back my tears when I saw the dead bodies of people I knew and the heavily damaged houses,” he said.

“The civilians have really become collateral damage in this war,” he added.

Amidst the rising number of civilians who have perished and had been displaced by the armed conflict, Solaiman underscored the need to preserve gains of the peace process between the Philippine government and MILF.

“The siege happened at a time when the GPH-MILF peace process is still ongoing,” he said.

Solaiman was specifically referring to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would serve as the enabling law of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body that has been tasked to craft the BBL, has already finalized the draft law and is now ready to submit it to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The President is expected to present the proposed law to Congress on July 24 when he delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Solaiman related that when the armed conflict broke out on May 23, people in the community were asking him what the MILF was doing to help address the situation which continued to escalate by the day.

However, Solaiman said that it was only when the Peace Corridor was established that the doubts and fears of residents were put to rest.

The Peace Corridor aims to a provide a safe and secure zone for civilians fleeing the conflict, as well as a reliable space where humanitarian assistance can pass through.

He said that through the Peace Corridor, which is a collaborative effort of the Implementing Panels of the GPH and MILF, the MILF has shown its strong commitment and sincerity to the peace process.

Under the Peace Corridor Initiative, Joint Coordination and Monitoring Action Centers (JCMACs) were established in Marawi City and Malabang in Lanao del Sur.

Solaiman, who was part of the JCMAC Team which entered the conflict zone on June 4, admitted that he and other MILF volunteers were unsure if they would be able to get out of conflict area alive.

“But in the name of the Bangsamoro, and in the name of humanity, we didn’t mind risking our lives to save our brothers and sisters,” he said.

Solaiman said that the Marawi siege should be “a lesson and the reason” why the peace process should continue between the Philippine government and MILF.

He believes that the MILF’s involvement in the Peace Corridor is crucial, as Chairman Iqbal instructed them to protect the civilian population at all costs, and ensure that terror groups such as the Maute do not derail the peace process.

“We have seen the death and destruction brought about by the armed conflict. But we should also look at this crisis as an opportunity to bring real change and development to our beloved Marawi. Allah will take care of us,” Solaiman concluded.

Dureza commits college scholarships, projects for Mangyans

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza pledged scholarship programs and additional allocation for the PAMANA-Mansalay project for the benefit of the Mangyan tribe in Mindoro.

Dureza briefly interrupted his work in Lanao by flying to Mindoro yesterday and met with local officials and the 7 Mangyan tribes where he also inaugurated a road building project penetrating the interiors of the town of Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro, an area where most of the indigenous peoples have settled.

In a dialogue with the indigenous tribe, Dureza committed tertiary scholarships to Mangyan youth, saying that education should be the priority of the Mangyans.

“I asked them what they need and they wanted to improve the education of their children. I committed to immediately increase allocation for our scholars for now. It’s a very specific request so we decided to support on the spot,” Dureza stated.

In addition and as a project proposal, Dureza committed an additional allocation for the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) project, specifically for the municipality of Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro for the development of the indigenous people community situated there.

The PAMANA project is an inter-agency effort of the government, headed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), to bring development and livelihood initiatives to those situated in conflict-affected areas.

“We need to improve the lives of people. Development is as crucial as peace and should be a simultaneous effort,” said Dureza.

The event was part of the Indigenous People’s (IP) peace table wherein the Duterte administration attains to engage, meet, converse with and hear the concerns, inputs, recommendations of IPs in the country.

The IP peace table, through its leading panel, shall bring, advocate, espouse or present to the GPH Panels the consolidated inputs, issues and concerns, and aspirations of IP communities, as articulated by their leaders, relative to the GRP-NDFP peace process, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in the crafting of the enabling law for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), and other agencies for other IP issues and concerns that impact on the peace process.

‘We risk our lives to save others’ – MILF peace volunteer

MARAWI CITY – Peace Corridor volunteers stationed here in the city went the extra mile to facilitate the retrieval of trapped civilians inside the conflict area, even risking their lives to save the others.

“This is our work, we risk our lives to save trapped civilians. Aside from risking our lives, we also make sure that ceasefire is working well,” Marjanie Mimbantas, a MILF member volunteering for Peace Corridors, shared.

With the ongoing crisis here in the city, MILF members found themselves performing a new role working side-by-side with the Philippine Government (GPH) by facilitating a safe and secure route for the retrieval of trapped civilians and humanitarian assistance to pass through.

The Peace Corridor is a joint initiative between the GPH and the MILF resulted from the meeting of President Rodrigo Duterte and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Davao City on May 29.

Marjanie, who is also a member of the MILF Peace Implementing Panel, said that the GPH-MILF Peace Corridors are one of retrieval efforts organized, alongside with initiatives from both the city and provincial governments.

“Our Peace Corridors are unique because we are going inside the war zone not only those which are cleared areas,” he explained.

MILF volunteers to the Peace Corridors are often assigned to enter the conflict zone to retrieve the trapped civilians within the area. Despite of the dangers they will encounter, Marjanie and other MILF volunteers are always prepared to go to help others.

“That’s the reason why we are camping here. Whenever someone asks for help, we are ready to go,” Marjanie pointed out.

Their movement, however, will still depend on the assessment of the ground commanders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. Marjanie emphasized that it is only when they get a clearance that the operation will commence.

Since June 4, Marjanie has been part of the Peace Corridor and he personally saw gratefulness of retrieved civilians and their relatives to the Peace Corridor. As of this writing, a total of 240 civilians were retrieved out of the war zone.

“If not because of this Peace Corridor, we will not able to go inside. This is one thing that we are very thankful to the Peace Corridors,” Marjanie said.

Marjanie, a Marawi resident himself, responded to the call of the situation when he heard of the creation of the Peace Corridors. He and his comrades in MILF knew that this can be their small contribution to help the affected Marawi residents. Although more than a hundred enlisted themselves, stricter policies were considered in the selection of volunteers to avert possible challenges.

“Our presence here manifests the sincerity of the both GPH and MILF to finally solve this problem,” Marjanie concluded. ###

Peace Corridor facilitates humanitarian assistance to conflict zone

MARAWI CITY – The establishment of the Peace Corridor has been instrumental in providing much-needed humanitarian assistance to residents affected by the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City and municipalities that straddle Lake Lanao.

This was revealed by Wendell Orbeso, head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process’ (OPAPP) Cotabato Operations Office, which has been tasked to provide support to the GPH-MILF Peace Corridor initiative which began last June 4.

“Since the opening of the Peace Corridor, the flow of humanitarian assistance has been continuous in the affected areas,” Orbeso said.

The Peace Corridor is a safe and secure zone for civilians fleeing the conflict, as well as a reliable space where humanitarian assistance can pass through.

To date, the initiative has helped facilitate the rescue of 270 civilians who were trapped in the armed battle between government forces and members of the Maute group since the latter laid siege to the city last May 23.

The Peace Corridor was created through a collaborative effort of the Implementing Panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Under the Peace Corridor, two Joint Coordinating and Monitoring Action Centers (JCMAC) were established. One is located in Marawi, while the other is in Malabang, Lanao del Sur.

Orbeso noted that media coverage on the Marawi crisis should highlight the relief efforts being carried out by local and international humanitarian organizations on the Malabang portion of the corridor.

He said the Malabang Peace Corridor has made possible the unhampered entry of relief goods in the conflict zone, something that was not possible before the initiative started.

Orbesa said the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) provincial government, through its Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (HEART), wanted to make sure that the assistance it brought along reached all intended beneficiaries.

He explained that through the JCMACs, coordination between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MILF was further strengthened, enabling the ARMM-HEART teams to successfully carry out relief efforts in the affected communities.

“If needed, the JCMAC, composed of unarmed members of the MILF and military, accompanies the ARMM-HEART convoy in bringing in the relief goods,” Orbeso said.

Based on the latest situational report of JCMAC, 17,507 foods packs, 5,587 pieces of Malong and 1,343 hygienic kits have been distributed by the ARMM-HEART in Marawi City and 20 other surrounding municipalities in Lanao del Sur.

The relief efforts were carried out by the ARMM-HEART in partnership with the International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC), Community, Family Services International (CSFI), Bangsamoro Development Authority (BDA) and other donor agencies.

In the meantime, OPAPP Undersecretary Nabil Tan, OPAPP Assistant Secretary Acel Papa and OPAPP Consultant Gerry Salapudin visited the JCMAC Office in Marawi and were briefed by Col. Cesar de Mesa, JCMAC officer-in-charge, on the relief and humanitarian efforts being undertaken through the Peace Corridor.

During the briefing, de Mesa emphasized that the Peace Corridor is a testament to “how far the Bangsamoro peace process has come and the partnership that has been established [between the Philippine government and the MILF].”

For his part, OPAPP Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso explained to members of the JCMAC team that the purpose of Usec. Tan’s visit was to observe the operations of the center and gather inputs on how the delivery of its services can further be improved.

Hermoso said the JCMAC has already developed its operational “doctrine” which has enabled the center to function effectively both as a rescue and humanitarian unit.

“When we set up the JCMAC, we established the capability to move fast and communicate [with our partners on the ground],” he said, adding that these have been the key in the center’s ability to immediately respond to developments on the ground.