By Hannah Torregoza
As the nation marks the first anniversary of the Marawi siege, Senator Leila de Lima called on the Duterte administration to expedite humanitarian assistance to home-based and evacuation center-based internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Marawi City and nearby municipalities.
“With the continuing displacement crisis plaguing Marawi, the government should be reminded that the battle of the war-torn city is far from over,” de Lima said on Wednesday.
“It must not lose sight of its obligation to improve the plight of IDPs affected by the military operations,” the opposition senator further said.
De Lima said more than half of the residents who were displaced in the conflict wrought by the ISIS-inspired Maute group until now remain uncertain when or if they will be able to return to their home and reclaim their normal lives.
“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,” she said.
“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 remain in evacuation centers and other temporary resettlement areas as of March 6, 2018.
Out of this, 65,653 families are in home-based settings while 2,841 families are in evacuation centers. Task Force Bangong Marawi (TFBM) also confirmed the UNHCR Report 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.
She said the report also confirmed that the conditions of the 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 detained senator said.
She 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,” she said.
“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 added.
She also cited that humanitarian assistance received by both home-based and evacuation center-based IDPs has reportedly reduced in frequency. She said 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 pointed out.
Meanwhile, Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV pushed for monetary compensation to Marawi City residents who lost their homes and other properties to the infamous siege last year.
Aquino, in filing Senate Bill No. 1816, said the financial assistance would help the residents with means to immediately recover from the damage and destruction perpetrated by the ISIS-inspired Maute group a year and five months ago.
“The Marawi crisis left thousands of Marawi residents without shelter, jobs and other means of livelihood,” said Aquino, a member of the Special Committee on Marawi City Rehabilitation.
“Kailangan nila ng agarang tulong mula sa pamahalaan upang sila’y makabangon at makabalik sa normal na pamumuhay (They need immediate help from the government so they can rise up again and return to their normal lives),” the senator added.