MANILA, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Japan will provide an emergency food aid amounting to 9.5 million U.S. dollars to the thousands of war-displaced persons in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, its embassy in Manila said on Sunday.
The assistance will cover the distribution of 7,500 metric tons of rice to affected civilians through the United Nations' World Food Program (WFP).
"Japan sincerely hopes that this emergency food aid through the WFP would help mitigating the current humanitarian crisis in Mindanao and strongly expects a cease-fire and the immediate resumption of peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," the embassy said in a statement.
The 12,000-strong MILF, which used to be a part of a larger separatist group that signed a peace deal with the government in 1996, had been battling for self-rule in Mindanao since 1978.
After the aborted signing of an expanded Muslim homeland deal with the Philippine government in August 2008, MILF rebels forcibly occupied some Mindanao towns, killed civilians and looted and burned their homes. More than half a million of people have been affected by the conflict since government troops launched a military offensive against the rebels afterwards.
"Earlier in 2006, Japan had provided food aid amounting to 280 million yen or approximately 2.8 million U.S. dollars for the displaced in the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao also through the WFP. This time, the aid will be substantially larger in its scale," the embassy said.
Recently, the Philippine government has announced it is ready to resume talks with the Muslim rebels, but the displaced are still afraid to go back home for fear of the unstable situation in the south.