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 reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
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.
Six weeks into the conflict, the number of displaced persons continues to increase. 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.
As of this report, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has reached a total of 72,897 families (349,989 individuals) according to government estimates. Of this number, 3,437 families (16,070 individuals) are in 77 evacuation centers and 69,460 families (333,919 individuals) are with host families.
The displaced population, particularly those who are in host communities (95 percent), continue to be faced with mounting protection concerns such as the unrecognition of informal settlements, congestion in the evacuation centers, reported cases of acute diarrhea among children, lack of identification, lack of prioritization of persons with specific needs in the relief assistance, and the lack of information dissemination strategy for the internally displaced persons (IDPs), among others.
Amidst operational constraints, UNHCR and other members of the protection cluster advocated with stakeholders and duty bearers for: (1) support to local capacities and resiliency by supporting the home-based IDPs and its host communities, by which assistance should not be limited to IDPs in the evacuation centers but also to those who are home-based. This is in line with UNHCR’s community-based protection approach; and (2) strengthen Family Tracing and Reunification. While the Philippine Red Cross has already established family tracing and reunification system in some evacuation centers, it was noted that there is a need to expand to reach to IDPs in other areas.
The Philippine government established the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC), which serves as the central coordination hub for government and humanitarian responders, and the different clusters have been activated at sub- national level. The government has already identified areas for possible relocation of IDPs and reconstruction plans have been discussed by government officials. Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Emil Sadain stated that a “tent” city would be established in Marawi City as soon as fighting stops. An oversight committee to focus on a reconstruction program for Marawi was formed by the Office of the President. A multi-agency task force will soon be convened to assess the situation.