The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) provided assistance to some 837 families in Calbiga, Samar who evacuated due to fear of being caught in the crossfire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
The families, who were from 15 hinterland barangays, journeyed last April 4 to seek for temporary refuge at the municipal covered basketball court because of the continuing presence of Community Service Groups (CSG) of the 87th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in four upland barangays of the municipality.
Based on reports from the field, included in the mass evacuation were 933 children, 35 pregnant women, six persons with disability, and 112 senior citizens which immediately caused concern to the DSWD administration because of the huge number of vulnerable individuals exposed to unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
The local government tried to move the displaced locals into evacuation centers. However, the community residents declined the offer and rallied for the pull out of the military in their barangays, which the local government granted through negotiations with the displaced families and the People’s Surge, an alliance of disaster survivors in the region. The civilians said that they would be fine so long as the military pulls out of their communities.
The Department, through its Field Office in Region VIII, extended “pabaon” packs over the weekend to the affected families comprised of six kilos of rice, canned goods, packs of instant coffee, bottled water, and non-food items such as malong and blankets.
In addition, the local government of Calbiga provided transportation assistance to the displaced locals for their return to their homes.
Meanwhile, DSWD Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo said that the Department will continue to monitor the situation of the affected families and ensure their safety as they go back to their own barangays.
“We will continue to assess the needs of the displaced families and provide appropriate interventions to them if still needed because most of the individuals displaced by the incident are part of the vulnerable sector. The Department will ensure their safety and we hope that similar incidents like this will not happen in the future,” said Sec. Taguiwalo.
“The focus of our attention during incidents of armed conflict is the plight of civilians who are always the most affected. We appeal to both armed parties to ensure that civilians are not caught in the crossfire, especially children and senior citizens who are most vulnerable,” she said.