By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) has offered its services to the Department of Social Services and Development (DSWD) to distribute relief goods to Muslims situated outside the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) during the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID) crisis.
In a letter to DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista April 6, NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan offered the support, stating that there were over eight million Muslim people in areas outside BARMM.
Pangarungan noted that his agency has been getting “many complaints…from Muslim communities nationwide, narrating that they failed to receive relief or aid from DSWD.”
“We, at NCMF, volunteer our services to coordinate with and/or assist your good office in relief distribution and other assistance to the different Muslim communities (outside BARMM),” he said in his letter to Bautista.
NCMF, Pangarungan said, was a “national agency mandated by law to preserve and develop the culture, tradition and well-being of Muslim Filipinos, and has 11 regional offices and 10 field offices all-over the country.
Dr. Dimapuno Alonto-Datu Ramos Jr., external affairs bureau director and spokesman of NCMF, said their agency has regular manpower for normal operations, but lacks the funds to undertake emergency operations.
Since the start of community quarantine restrictions in different regions of the country, NCMF has been extending help to Muslims, particularly those stranded in local lockdowns, he said.
Datu Ramos cited the plight of 25 Muslim families who participated in a trade exhibit in Rosario, La Union, and have been stranded in the area, staying only in makeshift shelters.
The 45 exhibitor-families were “forced to remain in their vending area due to the lockdown, and complained that no relief assistance from the LGU or any government agency was extended to them since the lockdown started,” he said.
He said NCMF-North Luzon and Baguio team, led by Administrative Services Director Abdullah Macarimpas, came to the rescue of the 25 families, dispersing relief goods donated by Dr. Khadeeja Ambor, an NCMF staff.
He said Macarimpas’ team was first to assist the stranded families, including minor children.
Datu Ramos also reported that two groups of Muslim Filipino tabligh (Islamic preaching) members were also stranded in Zamboanga City and in Puerto Galera, Mindoro. The groups included over 50 persons, who have already received relief foods from NCMF-Region 9 Director Zulfikar Abatas and his counterpart in Mindoro.