Evacuees in Maguindanao, N. Cotabato almost 100,000

MANILA, Philippines – Up to 99,590 Filipinos have fled their towns due to the armed conflict between the Philippine government and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

The government has opened about 75 evacuation centers for them.

Up to 19,918 families live in the evacuation centers located in Pikit, North Cotabato, and 13 Maguindanao towns as of Friday, March 20. 

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) pegged the total number of affected persons at 131,150 (26,834 families):

On Friday, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman added that about 45 houses in Pagalungan, Maguindanao, and Pikit, North Cotabato, were also totally damaged. The BIFF burned most of these houses. 

The clashes between government and BIFF began on February 25, after Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr ordered the Western Mindanao Command to "conduct all-out offensive operations" against the breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Meanwhile, a clash between the Philippine Army and the New People’s Army affected 125 families or 625 persons in Bitaugan, Surigao del Sur. No evacuation centers have been set-up for residents.

The DSWD has provided assistance worth P24,577,690 to all areas affected by armed conflict:

"Ang ating armed conflict in Mindanao [ay] sa iba't ibang lugar, at ang pinakadahilan, except for Surigao, ay ang paghahabol sa BIFF at sa teroristang si Usman," Soliman said. (Our armed conflict in Mindanao is spread in different areas, and the main reason, except for Surigao, is to go after BIFF and the terrorist Usman.)

Filipino terrorist Abdul Basit Usman was one of the two "high-value targets" of the botched January 25 operation of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF). The other target was Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan.

The police operation in Mamasapano led to the death of 44 SAF troopers, 18 MILF members, and 5 civilians. Marwan was also killed, but Usman escaped. – Rappler.com

Read this Rappler story to know more on how you can help internally displaced people in Mindanao.

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.