While heavily armed policemen and soldiers patrolled Zamboanga City on motorcycles on Tuesday, residents trooped to whatever stores were open for business for the day.
Long lines formed in front of a pharmacy while the supply of bread at one of the open stores was running low, radio dzBB's Benjie Liwanag reported.
In eight evacuation centers, over 9,000 residents seek temporary shelter amid the continuing standoff between government forces and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters loyal to founding chairman Nur Misuari.
“Ngayong hapon nagbukas na iyong ilang grocery at pharmacy kaya mas okay na ‘yung supply ng pagkain,” Sheila Covarrubas, the city’s public information officer, told GMA News by phone as she described the situation in the city on the second day of the standoff.
Relief efforts were being conducted jointly by the local government unit and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in coordination with some private individuals, Covarrubas said.
The Philippine Information Agency Western Mindanao pegged the number of evacuees as of Tuesday noon at 9,546, but authorities expect the number to swell.
No rice shortage
The National Food Authority (NFA), meanwhile, reassured Zamboanga City residents that there is enough rice being sold at the city's markets, despite tension stemming from the standoff.
A post on the city government's Twitter account quoted the NFA as saying that there is no cause for panic as prices of rice are being "monitored and regulated."
"There is enough rice supply being sold at the Sta. Cruz through our retailers. Price is monitored and regulated. Please do not panic," it said.
In a separate tweet, the city government also said there is no price increase of items at the city's Sta. Cruz Market.
"No price increase in Sta. Cruz Market. These reported price increase(s are) now being carefully monitored," it said.
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Covarrubas said there were still about 170 residents being held hostage by the MNLF. The rebel group released five hostages, one adult and four children, earlier in the day at Barangay Talon-Talon following negotiations initiated by the police.
Aside from Barangay Talon-Talon, other affected barangays were Santa Catalina, Kasanyangan and Sta. Barbara.
The military said the MNLF forces intended to hoist their flag at Zamboanga City hall on Monday following Misuari's declaration of independence last August. MNLF spokesman Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla, however, denied this. — KBK, GMA News