Editorial: Unacknowledged, unseen-A A +A
Monday, June 13, 2011
INTERNALLY displaced persons (IDPs) are out there, clustered in long-forgotten camps or hamlets of cramp communities that do not have the support system to build a new life. But, because there has been no outbreak of armed conflict in areas where the IDPs abound -- like Maguindanao and Cotabato -- they are no longer seen as a problem, they are no longer worthy of attention.
Many have returned, but many more have resettled elsewhere, all of them barely able to recover simply because authorities do not even know who, where, and how they are.
This concern is raised in the June 10, 2011 analysis by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre focusing on the IDPs of Mindanao, entitled: "Durable solutions still out of sight for many IDPs and returnees in Mindanao - A profile of the internal displacement situation".
The paper acknowledged that the 2008-2009 conflict sparked a new wave of IDPs that has since waned, but remains an unacknowledged problem.
"In May 2011, data from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (Armm) Programme Management Office showed that more than 5,000 families remained displaced in 54 evacuation centers in Maguindanao (MB, 5 May 2011, IRIN, 16 May 2011). The figures were not broken down to show how many were displaced by the 2008 to 2009 conflict between government forces and MILF, and how many by rido during 2010 and 2011," the report says.
But durable solutions are hindered by the fact that there are no reliable figures to come by as internal displacement is usually followed by resettlement somewhere else.
We can blame that on the bureaucratic desire to always look good, that problems are solved, and solved fast. Especially with IDPs, who are too poor to push forward their contention that they still exist, official solution to the problem is always in the number of evacuation camps established and provided with minimum basic necessities, number of relief goods distributed, number of social workers dispatched for trauma assessment, and number of IDPs returned.
Ergo, if you are caught in a crossfire and have therefore fled with your family, make sure you settle in these cramped evacuation centers provided by government and don't try to find creature comforts somewhere else, otherwise, official records will gladly strike you off the list.
It's not that nothing is being done. In fact, new programs and plans were launched between 2010 and 2011 for the so-called returning IDPs.
"In 2010, the government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao launched an Early Recovery Plan that covers 196 communities or barangays, and focuses on 46, all of the latter in Maguindanao. At the end of 2010, the new Philippine government announced a three-year peace-building, reconstruction and development initiative that covers all conflict-affected areas in Mindanao and incorporates assistance for IDPs. In February 2011, the UN and its partners launched a humanitarian action plan (HAP) seeking $34 million in funding for 2011. These initiatives signal a real effort to go beyond the provision of immediate relief and pay more attention to IDPs' long-term needs. However, with the emergency phase now over and donor’s attention again moving away from Mindanao, there is concern that many projects will remain un-implemented and therefore fail to make a real difference to IDP's lives," the report said.
But a lot is left to be desired most of all because of a limited understanding of protection concerns related to displacement. As mentioned above, for local government units, the work stops with the giving out of relief goods and offers of vehicles to bring them back when the gunfire stop.
There are no fixed policies about IDPs, there is little effort to gather appropriate information on this special sector of Mindanao people. There is but the grinning faces of politicians as they fly in with some donations, donning looks of concern while carrying crying babies during crisis times.
On the brighter side, the House of Representative already has a House Bill entitled the Internal Displacement Act of 2010 filed by Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro along with four other congressmen as co-authors. The Bill seeks for the for the prevention of internal displacement and protection from the adverse effects of internal displacement, address the continuing need of displaced communities, provide assistance during the return, resettlement or local integration, and compensation.
The Bill read in the House on July 27, 2010 was scheduled for first hearing on November 9, 2010 during which a technical working group was formed. As of November 18, 2010, it was under study of the TWG. No other updates can be found, almost a year later.
It has been quiet at the battlefront for more than a year now. The unacknowledged IDPs are eking out a new life, there are no gunfires, consequently, there is no urgency, and there is no photo opportunity for yet another “concerned” politician to raise the concern.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 13, 2011.