By FROILAN GALLARDO
Special Correspondent .
THE military moved to set up checkpoints along earthquake-stricken areas in North Cotabato as desperate residents fought for every scrap of food, water, and tarpaulin they can get from passing good Samaritans.
Defense Secretary and martial law administrator Delfin Lorenzana ordered the Armed Forces to set up checkpoints in Davao del Sur and North Cotabato hit hard by the earthquakes last month.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, acting as the government’s officer-in-charge, designated Lorenzana to ensure the safety of residents affected by the earthquakes.
Earthquake victims wrote on scraps of paper and wood appealing for food, water, and medicine as overwhelmed rescuers cope with the influx of evacuees in the evacuation camps.
Some residents resorted to painting their appeals for help on the highway in Makilala town, North Cotabato.
The province of Cotabato was hit by three successive powerful quakes—magnitude 6.3 on Oct. 16; magnitude 6.6 on Oct. 29 and magnitude 6.5 pm Oct. 31, two days later.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said that as of 6 pm Sunday, some 35,661 families or 178,305 persons were affected by the strong earthquakes.
The death toll rose to 22 dead while two persons remain missing.
The situation turn tragic for the worse after a farmer, Michael Danga, 21, was stabbed to death by a neighbor in a scuffle over the possession of a piece of tarpaulin in Barangay Indangan, Makilala last Saturday.
Indangan village chief Napoleon Inggo said tarpaulins are among the most desired items among the evacuees who used these as tents.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology ordered the evacuation of eleven barangays in Makilala town early Saturday.
The agency said the grounds under these mountain villages are susceptible to landslides.
The order prompted some 4,100 families or 25,000 people to come down from the mountains adding a major burden to dwindling food resources in Makilala town.
Rey Barnido of Caritas, a church-based relief agency said when the residents reached the town there was little food, water, and medicines available in the evacuation sites.
Barnido said many victims resorted to flagging passing vehicles looking for food and water to spare.
Food and water are slowly trickling to Makilala as government agencies marshal their resources to help the quake victims.
Col. Eugene Osias of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command said four water purification equipment that could tap the rivers of North Cotabato for potable water supply would be sent to the province this week.