Decision reference number: ECHO/PHL/BUD/2004/01000
1 - Rationale, needs and target population:
1.1. - Rationale:
As a consequence of the ongoing conflict between the Government of the Republic of Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), many thousands of people were displaced on February 2003(1) from their homes in Central Mindanao Region (CMR), some of whom are still unable to return to their zones of origin. The most recent official data available (October 2003) from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, identified over 200,000 persons still displaced in CMR, including ARMM(2). As a result of the dearth of information, ECHO funded a survey in the three worst affected municipalities(3) in 2004, where it was estimated that 39% of the houses (2.352) were destroyed and that 50% of the population was displaced for a second time (38% was displaced for a third time). In addition, key assets such as tools, animals, agricultural inputs and house furniture were lost as a result of the violence.
Since June 2003, a ceasefire between the GRP and the MILF has been in place and has largely held since, facilitating a fragile stability and the return of the majority of the IDP population. However, the ceasefire has not resulted in the resumption of peace talks. Therefore, the situation remains volatile and the resumption of combat cannot be discarded as a possibility.
As of July 2004, 1,041 households (some 8,000 individuals(4)) remained in evacuation centres assisted by ECHO partners in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, while 320 had resettled in official locations(5). Also an estimated 700 households are considered to be housed in temporary / unofficial evacuation centres and rehabilitation sites5. In addition, there is an unknown number of internally displaced people (IDPs) accommodated by extended families. The main factor constraining the return of IDPs is the presence of military in their areas of origin and the lack of a durable peace agreement.
The population that has returned is now in the process of re-establishing livelihoods, which were greatly affected by the loss of assets before and during displacement. Although for some of the returnees a degree of recovery has been possible, the uncertainty concerning the future of the conflict implies the fear of renewed loss and displacement and has prevented the recovery of many. The scarcity of livelihood opportunities, together with the lack of Government assistance, has contributed to a continuing deterioration of the quality of life of returnees and to insufficient access to basic services.
Further to displacement a second consequence of the conflict is the prevailing impunity in human rights violations, which is related to the continuous presence of armed forces in Central Mindanao. In spite of increased awareness from the Government and the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, there remains a lack of respect for the rights and security of IDPs, returnees and host communities by different factions.
The impact of the conflict on children is understudied. The MILF recruited child combatants(6) but little is known about their numbers, current situation and needs and no specific demobilization and reintegration actions have been adopted so far.
1.2. - Identified needs:
Internal Displaced People (IDP)
1,041 IDP households living in evacuation centres are dependent on Government and foreign aid assistance in order to have access to food and basic services. While basic services are currently covered by other donors, IDPs in evacuation centres are also in need of neutral and unbiased information so they can make free and informed decisions, in line with the provisions of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (GPID), regarding their return and/or the resettlement options presented to them.
Returnees and local population affected by the conflict
The population living in sites affected by the conflict face the following problems:
- Insufficient access to water and sanitation. The ECHO funded survey mentioned above found that 71% of the water points tested positive for bacterial contamination. In addition, 25% of families were taking water directly from the river or marsh. None of the surveyed families boiled the water. Regarding sanitation, 50% of families used the river as a latrine affecting water quality downstream. As a result, skin diseases and diarrhoea were prevalent in the surveyed area.
- Lack of access to health at village level. Health facilities located in the municipal capitals are two hours away at best.
- Food insecurity as a consequence of the lack of productive assets. Many of the returnee families lost the harvest and their assets during the displacement or were obliged to sell them. The lack of assets reduces the livelihood opportunities for the returnees keeping them vulnerable in food security terms.
- Protection. Communities are unaware of their entitlements as people displaced or affected by the conflict in other ways and lack of mechanisms allowing them to negotiate with conflict actors and appropriate government bodies on matters that affect their safety and protection.
Children involved in armed conflict
Although there is evidence that children were recruited by MILF during the conflict in Mindanao, there is an insufficient knowledge regarding their numbers, needs and situation. Information is also needed concerning the communities most affected and the most adequate potential response strategy for their demobilisation and reintegration.
1.3. - Target population and regions concerned:
- Water, sanitation and public health. The Decision will target 33,000 people: IDPs, returnees and conflict affected population from the municipalities of Pikit, Pagalungan, Datu Montawal and GSKP. All of the Municipalities are in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces in Central Mindanao Region.
- Food security. The Decision will target 31,000 people: IDPs, returnees and local conflict affected population in the municipalities of Buluan, Tulunan, Sultan Mastura, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Pagalungan, Pikit and Datu Montawal. All of the Municipalities are in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces in Central Mindanao Region.
- Protection. The Decision will target 20,000 people: IDPs, returnees and conflict affected population living in the municipalities of Pikit, Pagalungan and GSKP in North Cotabato and Maguindanao Provinces, Central Mindanao Region.
- Child Protection. At present there is no information regarding the number of children involved in armed conflict in Mindanao. It is expected that estimates concerning their number, needs and situation will be obtained as a result of the implementation of this component of the Decision.
1.4. - Risk assessment and possible constraints:
A ceasefire between the GRP and MILF is in place since June 2003. Although it has held since, it has not resulted in the resumption of peace negotiations, let alone the signing of a peace agreement. Therefore, the situation remains volatile and a restart of hostilities remains a possibility. Should this be the case, new displacements will take place and new needs in evacuation centers will appear, requiring the reorientation of the actions included in the present Decision in addition to further funding. The actions included under this Decision are designed to support the successful completion of the post crisis phase of the conflict. They require a peaceful environment as a pre-condition for their successful implementation.
In addition to violence originated by the GRP / MILF conflict, insecurity originated either by clan fighting related to land property or by criminal networks, has constrained the implementation of actions under the past Decision leading to modifications on its duration. Although the situation has improved after the presidential elections, the deterioration of security in the target area is still a risk that could make access to the beneficiaries a severe problem.
(1) Estimates range from 150,000 to 300,0000 persons
(2) Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
(3) Liguasan Marsh vulnerability survey. ACH, June 2004. The Liguasan Marsh, located in North Cotabato and Maguindanao Provinces, is the current focal point of the struggle between the GRP and the MILF and the area in which its humanitarian consequences have been the hardest.
(4) According to ACH's survey, 5,5 persons is the average per household (8 for IDPs).
(5) Source: OXFAM GB - includes IDPs from their operational zone only, i.e. Pagalungan and GSKP (Maguindanao), and Pikit (N.Cotabato)
(6) Child soldiers in Central and Western Mindanao: Rapid assessment.
International Labour Organisation.