COTABATO CITY: More and more internally displaced persons in Maguindanao are returning home, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said on Thursday.
In its data, the Humanitarian Emergency Action and ARMM-Response Team (HEART) reported that the number of IDPs has gone down to at least 9,000 families from about 20,000 families.
As of April 22, ARMM-HEART said only 9,053 families or 45,265 individuals remain in evacuation centers.
On Wednesday, ARMM-HEART said evacuation centers were closed or destroyed in the towns of Rajah Buayan, Datu Hoffer, Datu Piang, Mamasapano, Talayan, Talitay, Datu Anggal Midtimbang,Datu Odin Sinsuat, at Datu Abdullah Sangki.
As they returned home on their own or with the help of ARMM-HEART, the families returning home received food packs to help them to restart life in their own communities.
Myrna Jo Henry of ARMM-HEART said the total number of remaining IDPs are still in 32 evacuation centers in six municipalities.
These are in Shariff Saydona Mustapha with 1,903 families (9,515 persons); Datu Unsay, 1,191 families (5,955 persons); Shariff Aguak, 685 families (3,425 persons); Datu Salibo, 2,310 families (11,550 persons); Datu Saudi Ampatuan, 2,364 families (11,820 persons); and Guindulungan, 600 families (3,000 persons).
Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu of Maguindanao said the IDPs cannot be compelled to return home because it was only they who can say and decide whether or not it is safe to return home.
HEART said some IDPs prefer to stay in evacuation sites because their houses have been destroyed by military operations.
To date, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of ARMM said the regional government has spent a total of P59.6 million from the Special Purpose Fund of his office.
ARMM HEART expects more IDPs will return to their communities in the coming days.
Massive evacuation in Ma-guindanao’s 13 municipalities started on February 27 when the military launched operations to neutralize the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
More than 150 BIFF were killed and 33 others wounded, according to the military. The Army suffered 10 deaths and 29 wounded during the month-long air, ground and artillery offensives.