Philippines: IDP protection assessment report - Armed Confrontations and Displacement in Marawi (AFP vs Maute) - Issue No. 03
Incident Date: 23 May 2017
Firefights broke out in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur on the afternoon of 23 May 2017 when members of the Maute Group (MG) ambushed a military vehicle that was reportedly on a mission to serve a warrant of arrest upon Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was believed to be hiding in the area. The Maute group is a local armed group that has engaged in armed clashes with government troops since early 2016, and has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
By the same evening, the firefight escalated to other barangays in the city as the MG began increasing its forces. The Maute members reportedly occupied civilian structures, including school buildings, churches, the Philippine National Police Outpost, and a hospital. Killings and hostage-taking of civilians were also reported. In less than 24 hours, the Maute were able to control strategic locations in the center of the city, including government facilities. The situation prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the whole island of Mindanao under Martial Law for 60 days.
Massive civilian displacement occurred as a result of the growing tension, starting in the early morning of 24 May. More military troops were deployed, and clashes continued over the next several weeks. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched a combination of mortar shelling and air strikes against the MG.
Most have taken refuge in Iligan City and other nearby towns within Region X. An estimated 98 percent of the total population of Marawi City (201,785 individuals in 96 barangays, based on the 2015 census) have sought shelter in different evacuation centers or with their relatives. The crisis has also affected economic and commercial activities in the rest of Lanao del Sur province, triggering further displacement.
Eight weeks into the conflict, the number of displaced persons continues to increase. As of this report, government sources show that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has reached a total of 91,538 families (414,950 individuals) according to government estimates. Of this number, 4,385 families (24,024 individuals) are in 85 evacuation centers and 87,153 families (390,926 individuals), or 96 percent of total displaced population, are with host families in 7 regions. This data includes secondary displacement that has reportedly occurred in nearby municipalities.
The displaced populations, particularly those who are in host communities, continue to face prevailing protection concerns. This includes, among others:
- Rising number of IDPs in congested evacuation centers
- Increase in the number of self-settled sites that are not officially recognized as evacuation centers
- Lack of identification
- Lack of prioritization of persons with specific needs in relief assistance
- Late application of registration to family access cards
- Accessing relevant information among the internally displaced persons (IDPs)
Amidst operational constraints, UNHCR and other members of the protection cluster advocated with stakeholders and duty bearers for:
- Support to local capacities and resiliency by supporting the home-based IDPs and their host communities, to ensure that assistance is not limited to IDPs in evacuation centers but would also include those who are home-based, in line with UNHCR's community-based protection approach;
- Strengthening Family Tracing and Reunification protocols
- Proper verification and registration of individual IDPs
- Improved access to assistance and protection of IDPs in self-settled sites/ community-based evacuation centers
- The establishment of a grievance mechanism/system to address cases of exclusion from registration and assistance distribution
The National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) continues to function as the central coordination hub for government and humanitarian responders. The different sectoral clusters have also been convened on a regular basis under the national coordination structure. Task Force Bangon Marawi, a multi-agency task force created under Administrative Order 3 issued by the President, has established an operations center within the Provincial Capitol grounds of Marawi City to focus on the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi.