Mindanao quakes: NPA seen behind ‘humanitarian crisis’

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    THE head of the Office of Civil Defense and concurrent executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council yesterday said New People’s Army rebels, not residents displaced by the Mindanao earthquakes, are begging for relief goods in the streets as part of efforts to show there is a humanitarian crisis.

    Ricardo Jalad said the information came from the military which said the communist rebels orchestrated the begging to “shame the government.”

    Jalad noted that some of the supposed displaced residents were “begging with placards” and “begging in groups.”

    “If I were to beg, I won’t join a group. I’ll go solo so that I am going to receive more,” he said.

    Reports earlier said some residents in Makilala town in North Cotabato have been begging in the streets as government workers were scrambling to distribute food and other relief items to about 200,000 people displaced by three strong quakes last month.

    Defense Secretary and NDRRMC chairman Delfin Lorenzana even said some were blocking vehicles and taking the relief goods. He said he has ordered the military to bring those people to evacuation centers where goods are distributed.

    Jalad said the military has established checkpoints in key areas to prevent “some sectors from taking advantage of the situation,” referring to the ongoing relief operations for the affected population.

    “One of the purposes (of the checkpoints) is the reports that some sectors are taking advantage of the situation to shame the government. There are questions about why there are groups begging with placards,” he said.

    Pressed to elaborate on the “sectors” taking advantage of the situation, Jalad said, “Well, it’s not yet validated but the information is it’s the NPA. The information came from our troops.”

    “It’s just to shame the government (for supposed inability to provide aid). There is actually distribution of food in evacuation centers,” he added.

    Jalad also said residents know where to ask for food.

    “If they really have no food, they (displaced people) know where the incident command posts, where stocks of food are located. They should have gone there (instead of the streets),” he said.

    Three strong quakes that hit Mindanao last month also affected Sarangani, Bukidnon, and South Cotabato provinces, and the cities of Kidapawan, Davao, Koronadal, General Santos, and Cagayan de Oro City. The epicenter of the three quakes was in Tulunan town, North Cotabato. At least 21 persons have died from the three quakes which occurred on October 16 (magnitude 6.3), October 29 (magnitude 6.6) and October 31 (magnitude 6.5).

    FOOD POISONING

    Twenty-nine evacuees in Makilala town were hospitalized on Monday after eating “patel,” a local dish made of shredded chicken, egg, and rice wrapped in banana leaves, NDRRMC spokesman Mark Timbal said.

    Citing a report from health officials, Timbal said food was donated “by a group of individuals from Midsayap (town).”

    He said the patel, with foul-smelling egg, was eaten during lunch.

    “After four to five hours, (the) patients complained of abdominal pain, with episodes of nausea and vomiting and few have bowel movement,” said Timbal.

    Ten of the 29 are out of the hospital while the 19 others are still with the Rural Health Unit in Makilala.

    Jalad said, “There were foods given by a group we couldn’t trace. That resulted in food poisoning. Apparently, it’s not intentional (go give spoiled food). We encourage groups to bring the relief goods to evacuation center so we can check the quality of food, check the quality of medicine they are giving.”

    The Philippine Red Cross asked the public and big companies, to help in the relief efforts through their donations.

    It said that as of November 4, there were some 37,000 families or around 188,000 individuals affected by the quakes.

    Donations may be deposited via BDO (peso savings: 00-453-0190938; dollar savings: 10-453-0039482; swift code: BNORPHMM); BPI (peso savings: 4991-0036-52; swift code: BOPIPHMM); Metrobank (peso savings: 151-7-151524342; dollar savings: 151-2-151002182; swift code: MBTCPHMM); and Paypal ([email protected]).

    The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Taguig approved a resolution extending a P15-million calamity assistance to the victims in Davao del Sur and North Cotabato.

    The Pasig City government is waiting approval by the city council of a P14-million assistance to the victims in Cotabato and Davao del Sur.

    The Department of Labor and Employment allocated P200 million for emergency employment assistance for workers displaced by quakes.

    “We may need more than P500 million to cover all those needing assistance and emergency employment in the affected areas,” said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III. – With Gerard Naval, Rod Lagusad, and Christian Oineza