The Pilipino Banana Growers & Exporters Association (PBGEA) embarked on a relief mission to help displaced people severely affected by the war in Marawi City.
Dubbed “One Love, One Mindanao, Help Marawi,” the relief mission was organized by PBGEA member companies. Volunteers from the companies accompanied the three-truck convoy that brought relief goods to the beleaguered Lanao del Sur capital city on June 18.
“We are one with Mindanao and we are one with our fellow Filipinos in Marawi,” said PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig
Escorted by the military, the relief mission convoy left Davao City on June 17 and safely arrived at Camp Ranao in Marawi City on June 18 after some 14 hours of land travel.
The mission immediately turned over the relief goods to the military for distribution.
“We have an active “Sagip Pamayanan” program which extends disaster relief and rehabilitation in calamity stricken areas that is not only limited to where we plant bananas, said Antig. Member companies of the Davao City-based PBGEA operate mostly in Southern Mindanao.
Naturally, the mission brought bananas donated by PBGEA member companies.
“If there is one crop that bears a heart, it’s the bananas. And it’s what members of the PBGEA embodies and live by,” said Antig. “PBGEA has a heart for the distressed.”
“The bananas are actually a convenient and a good source of energy for the evacuees and our troops on the ground. It is a grab and go food. There’s no need to cook it,” pointed out Antig.
Antig said PBGEA is ready all the time to extend help to those who need it.
PBGEA with its Corporate Social Responsibility arm has placed support mechanisms in the community to achieve inclusive growth not only in banana production and trading but also in health development, educational assistance, environmental protection, infrastructure support, and disaster mitigation and relief assistance, he said.
He says PBGEA champions the concerns of the banana industry while delivering the gains through socio-economic interventions in areas where member-companies are operating in 15 provinces in Southern Philippines.
Upon their arrival, mission volunteers were shocked to find Marawi a ghost town but still braved entering the area to bring assistance “to our Maranao brothers and sisters,”
“We heard gunfire and bombs from cannons and airstrikes, ” says Betty Francia, one of the volunteers who joined the convoy, “but we are extremely honored to be in a position to extend some form of assistance to our brothers and sisters. I just wish this fighting will end soon.”
The convoy consisted of three trucks with hundreds of boxes of bananas, medicines, sacks of rice, ready to eat halal food packs, drinking water, clothes, blankets, toiletries and personal hygiene package, toys and others.
The mission also provided care packages and other goods for the troops to boost their morale.
The goods, donated by PBGEA member companies, farmers and other industry stakeholders, amounted to over a million pesos.
PBGEA sought the assistance of the Davao City-based AFP Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) to deliver the relief goods in the evacuation centers in Marawi.
Ltc. Ronaldo G. Valdez, of the EastMinCom, expressed how they are “grateful to get extra hand and support from the civil society. We appreciate the partnership wherein civilians help our soldiers.”
Thousands of Marawi residents fled their homes after the terrorist Maute group laid siege on the Muslim city on May 22. The attack by the terrorist group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare Martial Law in Mindanao on May 23.
Thousands of people fled the city as troopers continue to engage the terrorists in fierce firefights.
Massive relief operations have been launched by government and the private sector for the thousands of evacuees in temporary shelters in nearby Iligan City in Lanao del Norte and in Lanao del Sur.