MINDANAO DISPLACEMENT AT A GLANCE
Forced displacement due to various forms of conflict and natural disaster continue to confront most of the marginalized and vulnerable population in Mindanao. In 2015, a total of 407,397 persons have been forced to flee their homes of which around 37,000 persons have been repeatedly displaced mostly because of armed conflict, clan war, and generalized form of violence including human rights violations. These conflict-related displacements recorded an increase of 127% compared to 2014. The largest of which was the Law Enforcement Operation of government forces against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which displaced more than 148,000 persons in central Mindanao. To date, durable solutions among these displaced population continue to be a pressing concern especially in an environment where peace and order remains to be elusive.
Armed Conflict Displacement: Central Mindanao
In 2015, displacement resulting from armed conflict between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and recognized armed groups recorded the largest number of people forcibly displaced in a single year in central Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) since 2011.
In the first quarter of 2015 alone, Mindanao experienced the largest displacement since the rejection of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008.
By the end of December 2015, 233,887 persons had been forcibly displaced in central Mindanao. The large majority, over 80%, was displaced in the ARMM. Armed clashes between the AFP and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) continue to be the main driver of displacement in the provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao.
The largest single displacement took place in February following what is known as the Mamasapano incident – when 44 members of the Special Action Forces (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were killed along with 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and six (6) civilians – and the subsequent declaration of the AFP’s All - Out Offensive and Law Enforcement Operation (LEO) against the BIFF that lasted until the end of March uprooting over 148,000 persons. The military’s all-out offensive was gradually scaled down but its impact on the displaced and affected population was felt until August with reduced, but continuing LEOs.
A thousand IDPs were still recorded by the Protection Cluster members six months after the initial conflict. IDPs who had initially returned home, had to go back to informal displacement sites or in host communities because they did not feel safe in their villages due to continued, sporadic clashes between the AFP and the BIFF. Some were also unable to return without government support for the rehabilitation of their damaged or destroyed houses. At the time of the publication of this document, these issues remain a concern for populations repeatedly displaced by this conflict.
The Mamasapano incident had negative repercussions on the deliberation of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the Congress and Senate hearings, while non-state armed actors also took advantage of the precarious state of the peace process to continue attacks on government and military targets throughout the year.
The BIFF harassment of military detachments in the towns of Datu Saudi Ampatuan (Barangay Salbo), Datu Salibo (Barangay Pagatin), Mamasapano, and Shariff Aguak (SPMS box) in Maguindanao during the height of the LEOs continued unabated. BIFF attacks on civilian communities in MILF-stronghold areas in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces, and in communities with identified internal conflict with other BIFF member, further confounded the complex security situation in the area.
Early November, the BIFF tried but failed to overrun a military detachment displacing 30 families (estimated 150 persons) in the municipality of Shariff Aguak. On Christmas Eve, the BIFF launched synchronized attacks on military detachments, which resulted in 232 families (estimated 1,039 persons) being displaced from their homes in Pigkawayan municipality in North Cotabato province.
Overall, during the last quarter of the year, incidents documented by Protection Cluster members resulted in the displacement of 260 families (estimated 1,189 persons) in central Mindanao.
A new armed-group called the Ansar Khilafah Philippines (AKP), claiming to support the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), emerged in Palimbang municipality of Sultan Kudarat province causing fear amongst communities in the area. The group’s activities were thwarted in a pursuit operation conducted by the Philippine Marines, which resulted in the displacement of 50 families (estimated 250 persons) in late November. This group, and other small radical groups, contributes to the displacement of civilian populations in areas where there are unresolved conflicts between the MILF, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government forces.