Japan allots aid for people displaced by fighting in RP: UN agency

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 28 2009 07:06 PM | Updated as of Jan 29 2009 03:06 AM

Japan has extended an 860 million-yen (9.6 million-dollar) grant to help feed tens of thousands of people displaced by a Muslim separatist conflict in the southern Philippines, a UN aid agency said Wednesday.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency and the World Food Programme (WFP) signed the grant agreement at the UN agency's Rome headquarters on Friday, the programme's Philippine office said in a statement.

It said the needs of the "conflict-affected populations" on the main southern island of Mindanao "have increased following the upsurge of conflict in August 2008."

It said additional aid was "urgently needed to enable WFP to provide a comprehensive food basket including corn-soya blend, beans, vegetable oil and sugar to affected populations through a variety of relief and rehabilitation interventions."

Hardline Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) units pillaged villages across Mindanao in August last year, days after the Supreme Court blocked a draft peace agreement that would have handed over large areas of the south to the 12,000-member MILF, which has been waging a decades-old rebellion.

The upsurge in the fighting at one point displaced half-a-million people, according to international aid agencies.

The WFP and other groups say at least 100,000 civilians had been unable to return to their homes and farms in Mindanao, the homeland of a large Islamic minority, and needed long-term food rations.

President Arroyo has since begun testing the waters with the MILF with view to restarting the peace talks.