Philippines: Tulunan, North Cotabato, Earthquakes Situation Report No. 2

Situation Report
Originally published


This report is produced by OCHA Philippines in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 21 November to 4 December 2019.


• More than 349,000 people are affected and in need of assistance after three earthquakes struck an area of 25 kilometres southeast of the municipality of Tulunan in North Cotabato province between 16 and 31 October.

• 25,800 homes were destroyed and 21,700 partially damaged, mostly in the municipalities of Makilala and Tulunan.

• Priority needs are in the areas of protection, shelter/CCCM,
WASH, health and emergency education.

• Displacement in most affected areas is anticipated to continue for at least one year.

• The Government is leading the response with the Mindanao Humanitarian Team (MHT) augmenting efforts in key priority areas.

• A CERF Rapid Response allocation of a little over US$3 million was granted to three projects to jump-start life-saving relief efforts of locally-based humanitarian partners.

1.5M Population in severely affected areas

349,000 People in need of assistance

58,300 People displaced and in recognized evacuation centres

139,000 People targeted for assistance

19,8M Required funding (US$)


As of 4 December, more than 349,000 people affected by the earthquakes remain in need of assistance. The most severely affected provinces are Davao del Sur and North Cotabato. The earthquakes triggered substantial displacements as a result of destroyed, damaged or unsafe homes. More than 58,300 people are currently staying in 103 evacuation centres, and around 130,900 are staying in informal settlements or with host families. The municipality of Makilala in North Cotabato has been hit the hardest, with over 100,000 people affected, many of whom are currently staying in makeshift shelters or open grounds.

Over 25,800 homes were destroyed and 21,700 partially damaged, of which 72 per cent are in North Cotabato province including the municipalities of Makilala and Tulunan. Evacuated families are concerned that their houses are structurally compromised. Many are staying in makeshift shelters next to their homes or in nearby open spaces such as roadsides, which exposes them to monsoon rains, hail storms, health and protection concerns. Because of the risks posed by additional landslides and damaged buildings, the entire population of eight barangays in Makilala had to be evacuated and moved to evacuation sites after the third earthquake. Considering the nature of the disaster and the structural damage to buildings and infrastructure, displacement in many affected areas is anticipated to continue for at least one year.

According to IOM’s 4th Displacement Tracking Matrix published on 25 November, recent heavy rainfall in the affected areas raises concerns regarding the durability of plastic sheets and other light shelter materials considering an anticipated long-term displacement. The provision of potable drinking water remains a priority as only 61 per cent of the assessed population is able to access safe drinking water from springs, rivers, waterways and wells. With prolonged displacement, local livelihoods continue to deteriorate. Some of the worst affected areas are yet to be cleared by authorities, which prevents displaced families from accessing and maintaining their farms and rubber plantations. In Tulunan, none of the evacuation centres are formally recognized by the local authorities, which has led to inadequate camp coordination and camp management (CCCM). CCCM support actors are advised to continue advocating for formal recognition to ensure that IDPs have access to relief goods and services. Government agencies and humanitarian partners agree that the relocation process is of critical importance, considering that many of the shelter materials provided are not suitable for long-term displacement and another natural disaster could gravely worsen the humanitarian situation.

In November, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Region XII (MGB-XII) and the local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices conducted geohazard assessments in affected areas. MGB XII confirmed that four barangays in Makilala (Cabilao, Luayon, Bato, and Buhay) and three barangays in the municipality of Tulunan (Daig, Paraiso, and Magbok) are considered as 100 per cent ‘high-risk areas’ and an additional 23 barangays are considered as partially ‘high-risk areas’. These barangays were formerly designated as No-Build-Zones, for which the MGB faced criticism because a majority of these areas are the land and ancestral domains of Indigenous People (IPs) and the decisions were made without their consultation and consent. It is not yet clear if affected communities will be able to return, but reconstruction of houses in ‘high-risk areas’ would be permitted if owners can ensure that the structures are resilient enough to withstand future earthquakes and not exposed to potential landslides.

Supporting the Government-led response

The national Government is leading response efforts, assisted by the Philippine Red Cross in providing water, food, health and relief assistance. In line with the local government code, several LGUs and government departments have issued bilateral requests for humanitarian assistance. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is distributing food and relief items to the affected families, and setting up temporary shelters and community kitchens. As of 4 December, over Ph₱87 million (US$1.7 million) worth of assistance has been provided by DSWD, Department of Health (DOH) and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) to the affected families. The private sector complemented relief efforts at the beginning of the response and has started to redirect its interventions towards supporting early recovery since early December.

The Humanitarian Country Team estimates that US$19.8 million is required to meet the priority needs of 139,000 people in need of assistance over the next six months. A Humanitarian Needs and Priorities (HNP) document was compiled by OCHA on behalf of the HCT from technical inputs provided by cluster lead agencies and drawing on a number of general and sectoral assessments conducted by partners in the two weeks following the earthquakes. It was agreed that Protection interventions will be at the core of the response with additional key priorities in the areas of shelter, WASH, education, health and CCCM. Shelter is of particular concern as the displaced population is exposed to incidents, including extreme weather conditions.

A CERF Rapid Response allocation was granted by the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) to jump-start life-saving relief efforts of locally-based humanitarian partners. In total, grants of a little over US$3 million in total were approved for three projects covering life-saving CCCM and shelter assistance, ensuring sexual and reproductive health and Genderbased Violence services to women and girls, and multi-sector emergency response (Education, Child Protection, and WASH) for the most vulnerable populations inside and outside of ECs in the municipalities of Makilala and Tulunan, and Kidapawan City. The response places emphasise on the needs of IPs, which are native to many of the affected barangays and are confronted with the loss of their livelihoods and ancestral lands.

A sub-national Cash Working Group (CWG) has been activated to support the MHT in coordinating their Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) interventions and in guiding the feasibility and details of a joint market assessment.

Recent field visits identified a need for improved communication and dialogue with IDPs, who suffer from high levels of stress and anxiety because of the limited information they have received. Slow process in the registration process is also preventing some IDPs to gain access to relief goods and services. From 29 November to 2 December, OCHA conducted an Information Communication and Accountability Assessment (ICAA) which covered seven IDP sites in the municipality of Makilala with the goal to validate information needs, preferred communication channels and accountability mechanisms across. IDPs expressed that they desire better communication on Government plans on decampment, return and relocation plans, cash assistance and livelihood support in evacuation centres. There is also confusion with regard to the messaging of the local Government, MGB and PHILVOCS on the implications of No-Build-Zones and high-risk areas.

Most IDPs rely on local radio and SMS/calls to receive information and otherwise trust Government agencies such as DSWD, the Department of Health (DOH), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the police. The ICAA recommends the conduct of regular community assemblies to relay information, establish a dialogue between the Government and IDPs, and consult on evolving needs considering the prolonged displacement. The military and police and other designated camp coordinators are expected to leave the ECs by early December, which needs to be properly communicated to IDPs.

Further, IDPs need to be reminded that ECs in schools can only be of temporary nature. The results of the assessment were shared by OCHA with the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Makilala.

Access, safety and security considerations

Security is of potential concern given the remoteness of some affected villages. Cotabato is also one of the provinces with the most security incidents as a result of frequent clashes between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces. Martial Law, which was imposed in early 2017, will remain in effect in Mindanao at least until the end of December 2019.

The Department of National Defense issued an instruction to set up check points in areas affected by the earthquakes in Davao del Sur and Cotabato in order to “control the ingress and egress of people in evacuation centers to ensure only legitimate and authorized relief workers are granted access to the evacuation centers”.

UNDSS advised UN organizations to inform on locations and programme activities when planning to conduct operations in affected areas, for them to offer appropriate advice with regard to potential access issues.

To improve coordination between humanitarian actors and military forces, OCHA is planning to conduct two Civil-Military Coordination Trainings in early 2020 with Regional authorities and the military in BARMM and Region XI.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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