September 3, 2008 · Posted in: Image Galleries, In the News


THOUSANDS of evacuees, who fled their villages two weeks ago amid renewed hostilities between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in different parts of Mindanao, continue to seek shelter in evacuation centers. The latest report of the National Disaster Coordinating Council has placed the number of evacuees at 22,861 families, or 111,133 persons, out of the close to half a million affected population.

Despite the assurance from the military that the rebels have been driven away, the displaced residents of North Cotabato, many of whom are from the affected Muslim villages of Pikit, Aleosan, Midsayap, Libungan and Tulunan, refuse to go back to their homes for fear that fighting might again break out.

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At one point, a quarter of Pikit’s population of 90,000, observed Mindanao journalist Bong Sarmiento, were cramming in the town’s 29 evacuation centers. (Read his report here.)

The NDCC, however, has noted a considerable decrease in the number of families staying in the province’s evacuation centers. At the abandoned Buisan warehouse located along the national highway, for instance, many villagers from Bualan have moved out, preferring to stay outside evacuation centers given their miserable condition there. Aside from the poor sanitation facilities, many evacuees were not able to receive sleeping mats, mosquito nets, and blankets. Some even have been forced to stay in wooden carts using only tarpaulin as protection from the heat and rain.

Still, at least 50 families have opted to stay, mindful of their security should they go back to their village homes.

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Photojournalist Keith Bacongco (AKP Images) took these photos of the evacuees in Buisan last August 28, 2008.

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