PIKIT, Philippines ? A Japanese nongovernmental organization extended assistance to flood victims in a Muslim rebel-controlled village on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao over the weekend.
|Out of the storm: Children displaced by floods sleep at an evacuation shelter in Cotebato on Mindanao Island in the Philippines on June 20. KYODO PHOTO|
Tomo Matsui of the Mindanao Children's Library Foundation, based in the island's central province of North Cotabato, led the distribution of tarpaulins and clothes to residents of Kabasalan, a remote village of this town that has been submerged in flood waters for almost a month now.
Incessant rains caused by three storms that hit the country this month have swelled major rivers and tributaries in the region, causing heavy flooding in low-lying towns and cities. A major river system clooged by water hyacinth was another contributing factor.
Several hundred thousand people in central Mindanao have been affected by the flooding, with tens of thousands now sheltering in evacuation centers.
"The Mindanao Children's Library Foundation is mainly for children, but we help those who are in need, regardless of the circumstances. If we made them happy, then that's good," Matsui, 58, said, speaking in the local Cebuano dialect.
With a population of a little over 3,000, Kabasalan is an area controlled by the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
"We are very grateful to Tomo-san for their help, said village leader Teng Oba.
"These tarpaulins and clothes are a big help to us already. We use those tarpaulins to add cover to our roofs during rainy season, or as cover when we sail to catch fish, or as drying mats for our corn during the dry season," he said.
Last week, the foundation conducted similar missions in six other rebel-controlled villages of Pikit believed to be under the jurisdiction of another rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front.
"Sometimes, if I think about it seriously, I feel afraid a bit. But knowing that there are many children there and their situation is very pitiful, my fear dissipates," Matsui said.
MCLF President Asrie Sabil Hussain and Pikit deputy social welfare head Mary Grace Cadungog said proper coordination with municipal leaders ensures their safety against the rebels.
Aside from Cadungog, Naomi Ochiai, Japanese representative to the International Monitoring Team of the ongoing peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF, joined the MCLF's mission on Sunday.