Evacuees whose homes were destroyed by gun battles in Marawi City will be given "family-sized tents" instead of money for emergency shelter, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said Thursday.
"These can be immediately used rather than the emergency shelter assistance where you have to wait for the validation before you can have it," Taguiwalo said in a press briefing.
"Tents ang mahalaga paghadaan para habang physical construction of the city is ongoing, may place to stay sila," she added.
Each tent can house up to 8 people and has windows for ventilation.
Taguiwalo said the government seeks to provide one "family-sized tent" for each of the 69,434 families who evacuated from war-torn Marawi.
Though procurement for the temporary shelters started three weeks ago, recipients will have to stay longer in evacuation centers or with their relatives as the social and welfare department is still dealing with red tape.
"We have problems with procurement because bidding failed as of yesterday but we are fast tracking it," Taguiwalo said.
The government has earmarked P662.5 million for the procurement of the tents, as well as Halal food packs, hygiene kits, and other non-food items for victims of the devastation in Marawi City, she said.
Government data showed Marawi's population of 200,000 evacuated the city, but Taguiwalo said they are expecting to accommodate 140,000 more evacuees as people living in outlying villages also lost their homes after the Maute group wreaked havoc in the Islamic City.
DEVASTATION IN MARAWI
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier apologized for the military offensive that has left the nation's main Muslim city in ruins, but said it was needed to crush militants linked to the Islamic State group.
Duterte also vowed that US-backed air strikes on Marawi would continue, as the conflict entered its fifth week with no sign of an end and its reported death toll climbed towards 370.
"I am very, very, very sorry that this happened to us. I hope that soon you will find it in your heart to forgive my soldiers and government and even me," Duterte said in a speech at an evacuation center near Marawi for people who have fled the fighting.
The fighting has seen Marawi, considered the Muslim capital of the largely Catholic Philippines, turn from a bustling trading centre into one resembling war-torn cities in Iraq or Syria.
It began when hundreds of militants waving black Islamic State flags rampaged through Marawi on May 23, torching buildings and taking Christian hostages.
Duterte immediately imposed martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao, home to 20 million people, saying the assault was the start of an IS bid to establish a caliphate there. [MARTIAL LAW: https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/05/23/17/duterte-declares-martial-law-in-mindanao]
The military deployed planes and attack helicopters to blast enemy positions, using American surveillance and intelligence assets, despite the risk to civilians and even their own soldiers.
The bombing has seen entire districts destroyed but the gunmen have remained holed up in pockets of Marawi, sheltering in bomb-proof basements and moving through tunnels, according to the military.
Hundreds of civilians are still believed to be trapped in the militant-controlled areas, according to local authorities and aid workers. With Agence France Presse