(Lessons from the series of municipal consultations in Shariff Saydona, Datu Salibo, Mamasapano, Datu Saudi, Datu Piang, and Talitay from September 2022 to February 2023)
Restoring the dignity of internally displaced persons requires a multi-sectoral approach. A municipal consultation is a multi-sectoral approach to addressing the needs of the IDPs and discussing the options for sustainable solutions to their problems.
Since September of last year, the MPC, through its partnership with The Asia Foundation, brought together key line agencies in the BARMM government, the IDP leaders, relevant CSOs, and the municipal government units in a series of municipal consultations in the areas of Shariff Saydona, Datu Salibo, Mamasapano, Datu Saudi, Datu Piang, and Talitay.
In the municipal consultations, the IDP leaders presented the action points they came up with during the leadership and humanitarian protection training in Davao City. Even though the IDPs have approximately the same dream of returning home, often the municipality’s mayors or administrative heads deemed it necessary to provide a brief contextualization on the ground in each IDP location because of the volatile peace situation in the areas.
What is a durable solution for the IDPs
“Kung bibigyan nga kami ng pabahay at makakabalik kami sa aming dating barangay, mahirap din naman kung wala kaming kuryente, pa tubig, o pangkabuhayan doon. Mas maigi pang manatili na lang kami dito kung saan kami nakatira ngayon kasi may mga hanap-buhay na din kami dito. Mahirap nang iwanan ang mga nasimulan naming dito sa bago naming tinitirhan.”
(It will be great if they will build houses for us. But it won’t be easy to return home without the necessary social support, such as electricity, water system, and livelihood. It’s better to stay where we reside because we have already established our livelihoods here. Leaving what we have already started in our new resettlement areas will be challenging.)
Woman IDP leader, a former resident of Mamasapano who is now residing in Shariff Saydona
“Nagpapasalamat kami na pinuntahan niyo kami dito sa Saydona at nalaman namin ang mga programa ng BARMM para sa amin. Tatanggapin naming ang ano mang tulong na ibibigay sa amin. Pag sinasabi nating bumalik sa dating tahanan, di lang naman ibig sabihin nun pa bahay. Kelangan din namin ng pagkain, pagkakakitaan, seguridad, at iba pa. Pero kung ano man maipapa-abot ng BARMM sa amin, busong puso naming tatanggapin yun.”
(We thank you [BARMM line agencies] for coming to Saydona and finding out about BARMM’s programs for us. We will accept any help you can give us. To return home doesn’t end in building houses; we need to be able to sustain ourselves, livelihood, and security, among others. But we will wholeheartedly accept any forms of help the BARMM government can give us.)
IDP Leader, an Ustad and a former resident of Shariff Saydona, displaced because of armed conflict between the BIFF and the military in their barangay
The IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in all the target municipalities dream of better lives. While some IDPs were able to settle in the area they are displaced, others prefer to return home provided there is peace in their places of origin, and they are given support. For this to happen, pre-conditions must be laid out beforehand, such as the assurance of safety, tangible assistance from government and humanitarian actors, job opportunities, and, most importantly, decent housing.
Response of the municipal government leaders
“It is important to have a profile of the IDPs first so we will know the characteristics of the population. From my experience of being the MDRRMO for 30 years in Saydona, the host communities should provide for the IDPs who evacuated in their areas. Also, what about those who have already resettled and integrated into their host communities? Is it still viable for them to return home, or should we support their current livelihoods? Because it is only useful to return them home if we can assure the peace and security of their barangays. We cannot provide ‘band-aid’ solutions. The root cause of the problems must be addressed first. We need a holistic approach involving all the BARMM ministries, all stakeholders, and all the peace forces.”
MDRRM Officer Shariff Saydona, in his closing statement at the last municipal consultation
The Municipal Secretary of Datu Saudi said that the municipality passed an executive order to ensure the safety of the IDPs and that their rights are protected. He also repeatedly emphasized the necessity of studying the local social issues in the area before proceeding with any project for the barangays.
The Local Government Unit of Talitay, led by the Hon. Sidik S. Amiril recognized the importance of political commitment and the essential role of the LGU authorities in addressing the issues of the IDPs in their municipality—furthermore, Hon. Amiril laid out the current efforts of the LGU in settling conflicts in their municipality.
However, not all municipal mayors attended the municipal consultations, and we can see the disappointment among the IDPs looking forward to their leaders’ responses to their plights. In their stead, the MDRRMO officers or the administrative head of the municipalities were the ones who relayed the mayors’ message of support to the current and planned efforts for the IDPs.
Response from BARMM ministries and CSOs
The MHSD (Ministry of Human Settlements and Development) assured that the IDPs would be facilitated in accessing housing and livelihood services as mandated by their office. Given the limited government budget, other relevant private sectors are willing to help provide infrastructure, housing, and services.
The MSSD (Ministry of Social Services and Development) representatives presented their current programs for the IDPs and how they can be accessed. Although they strongly emphasized the role of the LGUs in accessing such support from the BARMM government agencies. The LGU leaders should map out the extent of humanitarian aid, present the list of IDPs, and define the needs of the IDPs per sector.
From the peace forces, MPOS (Ministry of Public Order and Safety), CCCH (Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities), and AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group) informed the IDPs and the partners present during the consultation of the past and current efforts of the peace agencies in trying to resolve the conflicts in the municipalities. With this, they assured that they would find solutions to the problem and assist them in their return once it’s already safe. However, they also informed the communities of the skirmishes in some barangays in the target municipalities, which will also prevent them from returning.
The representative from MOSEP (Mindanao Organization for Social and Economic Progress) presented their organization’s current projects and programs in Datu Saudi. MOSEP provided dignity kits to the women IDPs, cash assistance to pregnant women, awareness-raising on the law against child marriage, and other capacity-building activities for women and children.
The CBCS (Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society) was also present in the consultation in Shariff Saydona and gave a background of their organization. Right now, the CBCS, in partnership with Atty. Raissa Jajurie’s office is working on the passage of the IDP Bill, which successfully went through a second reading in the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority). She handed out info-magazines, pamphlets, and IEC materials for everyone to read and review the rights of the IDPs.
The main criteria in their decision include: security in their home village, access to land, access to basic services and economic opportunities. The complexity of the IDPs’ displacement surfaced during the municipal consultations.
However, we need to first recognize the scale of internal displacement in municipalities in addressing the IDP problem together. By engaging the displacement-affected communities, the BARMM line agencies, the LGUs, and the humanitarian actors, we can all achieve more effective responses supporting durable solutions for the IDPs.
The IDPs often describe themselves as the “invisible” and the “voiceless” in the LGUs, and so the series of municipal consultations was an effort to promote the integration, participation, and non-discrimination in the entire process of humanitarian response.
The ideas, opinions, and experiences shared during the municipal consultation resulted in a rich and diverse collection of information that will be used in laying out the following steps to attaining durable solutions for the IDPs.