PNoy to Zambo refugees: You are not alone

MANILA, Philippines - In the midst of the standoff between government forces and rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City, President Benigno Aquino III assured refugees  the government is doing everything to address their needs.

Accompanied by Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, he visited the Joaquin Enriquez Sports Complex in Zamboanga City to speak to the approximately 44,000 refugees sheltered there. This group consists of 7,000 families from 6 barangays infiltrated by rebels.

Later in the afternoon, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said, the total number of evacuees in Zamboanga City had risen to 62,329.

"You are not alone in these times," Aquino said in a speech given in Filipino.

He said problems like the closing of banks and diminishing food supply have been addressed by the government.

"We have been assured that the food and other supplies here in Zamboanga City will last at least two weeks."

NOT ALONE. During a visit to an evacuation center, President Aquino assures refugees that the government is there for them. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

NOT ALONE. During a visit to an evacuation center, President Aquino assures refugees that the government is there for them.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Even before the clash between military and rebels, the Agriculture, Trade and Industry and Transportation and Communication departments prepared to ensure a continuous supply of food, he said.

Health centers manned by the Department of Health "are ready to respond to even the worst of cases."

The President also promised that he will be visiting different parts of Zamboanga to check on the conflict situation and how it is affecting civilians. 

He appealed to the evacuees not to worry.

"This problem of ours is getting closer to a resolution. True, there will still be skirmishes, but they did not succeed in their grim intentions. And I am telling you, things are changing. We are progressively reducing the possibility of wreaking havoc here in Zamboanga City, and we will end this at the soonest possible time."

PRAYING FOR PEACE. Refugees in the Joaquin Enriquez Sports Center come from 6 barangays infiltrated by MNLF rebels. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

PRAYING FOR PEACE. Refugees in the Joaquin Enriquez Sports Center come from 6 barangays infiltrated by MNLF rebels.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Despite the surrender of around 80 MNLF rebels in September, no end is in sight for the fighting. Defense Secretary Gazmin denied implementing a ceasefire. He said that soldiers will only stop firing if the MNLF rebels do so first. - Rappler.com