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Philippines: ICRC assists internally displaced people following recent fighting in Sulu

29-11-2005 News Release 05/90

A team of ICRC delegates has completed a mission to Sulu, where it evaluated the humanitarian consequences of the recent fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and armed opposition groups and met with local authorities and humanitarian organizations.

The ICRC is working closely in Sulu with the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), with which it has been distributing food to some 9,500 internally displaced people since 13 November. The majority of those displaced by the recent fighting are now temporarily living in private homes in the municipalities of Indanan and Panamao.

In meetings with AFP representatives and local government officials, the ICRC underlined the need for ongoing dialogue between the armed forces and local communities. " People have fled because of the recent fighting and they are understandably anxious to return to their homes, " said Jean-Luc Joliat, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in the southern Philippines. " Clear signals from the authorities about when it might be safe to do so will help address their fears. "

Coordination between all the government and local humanitarian actors has been critical to ensuring that needs are adequately identified and covered. " We use every opportunity to stress how important it is for the Red Cross to act independently if it is to maintain the confidence of the local people and continue to be accepted by all the parties to the conflict, " said Pinky Chiong, administrator of the local PNRC chapter.

During meetings with the authorities and in interviews on two local radio stations, the ICRC emphasized the need for all the parties to the conflict to respect the rules of international humanitarian law affording basic protection to those not or no longer involved in the fighting. In particular, it spoke about the principles of distinction and proportionality, which must guide the use of force by all those involved in the conf lict.

This was the fourth in a series of ICRC missions to the island of Sulu, located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, since the outbreak of hostilities in February of this year. The ICRC remains ready to act whenever necessary to assist victims of the conflict.

Earlier this month, the ICRC provided the PNRC Sulu chapter with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. It has also pre-positioned a stock of emergency medical supplies to be distributed to local health facilities treating the war-wounded. In addition, the local Red Cross chapter has set up a small mobile blood bank so that it can quickly respond to needs.

 

  For further information, please contact:
  Vincent Lusser, ICRC Geneva, tel: ++ 41 22 730 2426 / mobile: ++ 41 79 217 3264
  Michael Rudiak, ICRC Manila, tel: ++ 63 2 892 8901 / 0918 907 2125