Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today urged the Duterte administration to expedite humanitarian assistance to home-based and evacuation center-based internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Marawi City and nearby municipalities.
De Lima said more than half of the residents who were displaced by the Marawi tragedy have remained uncertain when or if they will be able to return to their home and reclaim their normal lives, as the Marawi siege marks its first anniversary today (May 23)
“With the continuing displacement crisis plaguing Marawi, the government should be reminded that the battle of the war-torn city is far from over. It must not lose sight of its obligation to improve the plight of IDPs affected by the military operations,” she said.
“I call on the Duterte administration to go beyond just building infrastructures and in turn, hasten humanitarian assistance to IDPS in home-based and evacuation-based settings. This way, these IDP families can rebuild not just their properties, but also their lives,” she added.
In its report issued last April 16, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that 59,495 out of 77,170 families – or 353,921 individuals –affected by the Marawi siege have remained displaced as of March 6 2018.
Out of this, 65,653 families are in home-based settings while 2,841 families are in evacuation centers. The UNHCR Report was also confirmed by Task Force Bangong Marawi (TFBM) in its own official records, UNHCR noted that the crisis has affected economic and commercial activities in the rest of Lanao del Sur province, triggering further displacement.
The report also confirmed that the conditions of IDPs remain a humanitarian concern due to problems on general maintenance of evacuation centers, lack of access to health assistance and medicine, shortage of food relief, and lack of access to information on return exercises, among others.
Note that while government-facilitated return exercises in Marawi City continue, the majority of IDPs from the Most Affected Areas (MMA) are still awaiting information on their return or relocation, with most of them still not having enough information on the criteria set by local authorities for prioritization.
The former justice secretary pointed out that the ideal government’s humanitarian response should address the physical, psychological, spiritual and cultural needs of the IDPS to ensure that they can successfully return to their normal life.
“Though the re-development of Marawi is underway, it seems that the Duterte administration remains clueless as to how they can truly rehabilitate Marawi. There are so many issues in the war-torn city that remain unheeded, such as concerns on gender-based violence, and access to food aid, livelihood and health services,” she said.
The protracted armed conflict, UNHCR pointed out, has forced some girls to marry at an early age due to lack of financial resources while other women who are survivors of sexual violence were forced to wed their perpetrators to avoid stigmatization and bullying.
The Senator from Bicol also cited that humanitarian assistance received by both home-based and evacuation center-based IDPs has reportedly reduced in frequency, noting how there is also an issue on irregular distribution of food packs for IDP families.
“It’s high time for the Duterte administration to analyze the situation, identify the real problems in Marawi, and provide immediate aid for these affected families. The millions or billions of pesos that will be poured in for the rehabilitation should not go to waste, or worse, end up in the pockets of corrupt officials,” she said.
The Marawi siege concluded on October 23, 2017 following four months and 25 days of ground battle between the Maute terrorist groups and state forces. It left some 1,100 dead, mostly terrorists, and displaced over 350,000 residents from the city and nearby towns.
The contract for the rebuilding of the 250-hectare Ground Zero in Marawi City, now referred to as MMA, will be awarded on May 31 while the rebuilding project is set to be completed by end of 2021.
Last year, De Lima has filed Senate Resolution No. 512 urging the appropriate Senate committee to look into the government’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Marawi, especially among the sick, elderly, disabled, women and children.