Lumbatan looks after Marawi refugees
Legions of refugees from battle-scarred Marawi City have sought asylum in communities around Lake Lanao.
Lumbatan, a historic town in Lanao del Sur, has embraced its neighbors from the city despite challenges in getting relief goods and a lack of trained manpower.
“Our municipality welcomed more than 900 internally displaced families when the war broke out between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and ISIS-linked Maute Group,” said Lumbatan Mayor Allan Lao.
From 995 families, 811 remain based on the master list issued by the Municipal Social Welfare Development Office, Lao added. The IDFs are staying with their relatives in 21 barangays of Lumbatan.
“The effect of the Marawi Crisis is not only limited to the war zone, but also to the communities along the eastern and western part of the lake. The lack of good roads makes these places inaccessible in sending support,” said the mayor.
In the east-west part of Lanao del Sur, food and relief assistance was limited because most of the support went to others, Lao added.
“Fire blocked the roads. The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Council delivered the food supplies through Lanao del Norte. A normal 90-minute drive turned to seven hours. Vehicles had to pass through tight security. We had attention to women, children and people with special needs. It takes good governance and strategy to deliver goods and services,” he added.
Lumbatan thus activated its disaster response team. Food supply was rationed. A support team from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao was on standby 24/7. A municipal rescue team was trained to assess the situation, and the MDRRC and the Department of Social Welfare and Development took turns in looking after the IDPs, the mayor said.
The local security force devised logistics to help Lumbatan cope with the challenges of accessing food and the risks involved in relief assistance, Lao added.
“The siege never stopped us from serving our people and performing our duties as a government service provider,” he said.
Lumbatan also organized a Peace and Order Public Safety Plan wherein people can call a hotline for emergency. It also includes an integrated peace campaign where a religious leader conducts peace education. These talks distinguish the basic tenets of Islam from extremist interpretations.
Lao observed that because of poverty, people were lured to adopt extremist religion and have used it to justify war. In all, the Meranaw custom of katatabanga (helping each other) and kasisiyapa (spirituality) have enabled the locals to wholeheartedly help the IDPs, he said.
“The war has taught us lessons in leadership and caring for the people. We belong to one human family where everybody is brother and sister. In times of crisis, we never turned our backs on those who sought asylum,” said Lao.