'Armed conflict in Marawi one reason for less pilgrims'


Saudi Gazette

— The armed conflict in Marawi region has impacted many aspirant Haj pilgrims this year according to a top Philippine Muslim official.

“Marawi, situated on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines was worst hit as Daesh (so-called IS) inspired militant groups waged a war with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and normal life was hit in the Muslim majority region that led to a reduction in total number of pilgrims this year,” said National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) secretary Saidamen Pangarugan.

NCMF is a competent and committed government agency serving progressive and peaceful Muslim Filipino communities that works under office of the country’s head. It advises the president in the formulation, coordination, implementation, and monitoring of policies, plans, programs and projects affecting Muslim Filipino community.

Pangarugan, who was Lanao del Sur governor in the past, is one of the close aides to President Rodrigo Duterte. He is in Kingdom, heading Philippines Official Haj delegation, which is known as Amirul Hajjaj.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Pangarugan said that normally pilgrims from Marawi region make up one of the prime segment among Haj pilgrims from Philippines. Besides, Cotabato and Lanao provinces also constitute a large proportion of Haj pilgrims.

Some faithful Muslims from war-torn Marawi, despite their aspiration of performing Haj, were not able to make it as they were caught in the crossfire, he added. He said that this year 5,800 Filipino pilgrims performed Haj, which is lower compared to previous years.

Pangarugan added that Philippines was allocated quota of 8,000 pilgrims for this year’s Haj. The secretary of NCMF hailed the services offered by Kingdom to millions of pilgrims and termed it excellent.

Meanwhile, Philippine Consulate along with the Embassy in Riyadh with the support of Philippine Overseas Labor Office and social welfare attaché, hosted a Haj Night here at the consulate premises for the Filipino Muslim pilgrims who successfully performed the Haj this year.

The event was attended by Ambassador Adnan V. Alonto and Consul General Edgar B. Badajos, who congratulated pilgrims and noted the improvement in Haj services to pilgrims.