Before Odette, Mindanao’s ‘bakwit’ population was 23,730 families, mostly due to Marawi Siege

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /17 January) – Before super typhoon ‘Odette’ unleashed its fury and displaced thousands of residents in northeastern Mindanao on December 16, a total of 23,730 families or approximately 116,661 individuals continued to be displaced as of November 30, 2021 due to armed conflicts, earthquakes, clan feud and typhoon, according to the November 2021 Mindanao Displacement Dashboard of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Philippines. 

Of this number, at least 92.5 %  —  21,961 or 107,819 individuals —  remain  displaced for nine, five or two years: since the 2013 Zamboanga Siege, the 2017 Marawi Siege, the 2019 earthquakes and Typhoon Falcon, the UNHCR report released via email on January 13 said. 

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mindanao have been classified into three main groups, depending on the length of displacement:  Group A referring to 
those displaced within the month, Group B for those displaced for more than 30 days but less than 180 days and Group C for those who have been “protractedly displaced for more than 180 days.”

The November 2021 report said that under Group A, 168 families (837 individuals) remain displaced out of 311 families displaced within the month; under Group B, 1,601 families or 8,005 individuals; and under Group C, 21,961 families or 107,819 individuals.

Classified under Group C are residents who remain displaced by armed conflict, earthquakes and typhoon since 2013: in Zamboanga City (720 families or 3,600 individuals due to Zamboanga siege in September 2013); in the different provinces in the erstwhile Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (1,408 families or 7,238 individuals due to armed conflict and crime and violence in September 2017);  in Lanao del Sur (17,060 families or 85,300 individuals due to Marawi siege in May 2017); in Northern Mindanao (14 families or 62 individuals) due to Typhoon Falcon in July 2019;  and 2,759 families or 11,619 individuals in Davao del Sur and North Cotabato due to the series of above Magnitude.6 earthquakes in late 2019: 1,436 families or 5,344 individuals in Davao del Sur and  1,323 families or 6275 individuals in North Cotabato. 

EVACUATION CAMP. A Philippine Air Force MG520 helicopter flies past an evacuation camp along R.T.Lim Boulevard in Zamboanga City on September. 14, 2013. At least 62,000 Zamboanga residents were forced to evacuate to escape the fighting between government troops and Moro rebels. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

The report said that in November 2021, an estimated 311 families (1,558 individuals) were displaced in Mindanao due to armed conflict, with 700 individuals displaced due to clan feud (485 individuals), and natural disaster (373 individuals).

Floods displaced 140 families in Siay town in Zamboanga Sibugay  on November 17 and one family in Iligan City on November 14, floods and landslides displaced 70 families in Maitum, Sarangani on November 11 while three families in Maluso, Basilan were displaced by tornado on November 8 and 70 families in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat due to firefight on November 25 and 27 families in Hadji Mohammad Adjul in Basilan on November 28 due to firefight between warring families. 

‘Bakwit’ for over 30 days but less than 180 

Under Group B, or those displaced more than 30 days but less than 180 days, armed conflict displaced 1,202 families or 6,010 individuals in San Luis, Agusan del Sur (27 ies or 135 individuals) on July 23,  in Lianga, Surigao del Sur (36 Manobo families or 180 indvidiuals) on June 23, in Shariff Saydona Mustapha in Maguindanao (1,113 families or 5,565 individuals) on October 31, and in Tipo-tipo, Basilan, 26 famlies or 130 individuals on August 13. 

Clan feud or rido displaced 231 families or 1,155 individuals in Pikit, North Cotabato (210 families or 1,050 individuals) on October 14 and in Mamasapano, Maguindanao (21 families or 105 individuals) on September 28. 

A shooting incident in Al-Barka, Basilan displaced 43 families or 215 individuals on August 3 while in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, 125 families or 625 families were dispalced due to pre-emptive evacuation on June 16 due to the tension cracks on flat ground that was observed on 13 June, believed to have been caused by continuous rainfall. 

‘Bakwit’ for years 

For those classified under Group C, the UNHCR report said that out of the 720 families or 3,600 individuals displaced due to Zamboanga siege in September 2013, 58 are in transitory shelters in Mampang, Rio Hondo, Buggoc and Asinan in Zamboanga City while 662 families are in “home-based settings.”

Out of the 17,060 families or 85,300 individuals displaced during the Marawi Siege in 2017, the UNHCR noted the report of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) that 4,214 families or 21,060 individuals are scattered in various transitory sites, that 620 families have been relocated in Pagalamatan Permanent Shelter in Saguiaran town, Lanao del Sur and in Barangay Dulay West and Gadongan in Marawi City while around 113 families have returned to the Most Affected Area (‘Ground Zero’ or the main battle area between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group, Abu Sayyaf Group and their allies).

Displaced Marawi residents who moved to the transitional shelters in Area 4 in Barangay Sagonsongan in Marawi City in early 2018 line up to fill their containers with water courtesy of  the Philippine Red Cross on 27 April 2018. Water supply has been a major problem and has become a major source of conflict among residents not only in Area 4 but in the other areas where transitional shelters have been built. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

The UNHCR also noted that while displaced families are still struggling to get back to normalcy after the siege, “the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated their situation” 

For those displaced due to Typhoon Falcon in July 2019, 14 families in Barangay Maranding, Lala town in Lanao del Norte were still occupying as of November 2021, the temporary shelters built by the local government unit with support from the National Housing Authority (NHA). They are supposed to stay in the temporary shelters until they can have permanent shelters provided by the local government unit or acquired by them. As of November 2021, however, “there is no information if displaced families will  have permanent shelter assistance.” 

‘Bakwit’ due to earthquakes

For those displaced by the high magnitude earthquakes in the last quarter of 2019 in North Cotabato, the UNHCR noted that a total of 1,323 families or 6,275 individuals were “still displaced” during the conduct of protection monitoring on August 17-18, 2021, around 90% of them Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) – Manobo, Bagobo and Tagabawa who lived in the hinterland areas identified to be prone to landslides. 

In Magpet town, 210 families or around 1,050 families were still staying at the Bongolanon Evacuation Camp as of November 2021. The government has identified the relocation sites for these IDP families, the subdivision plan has been done in preparation for the construction of the shelters by the NHA “the timeline set for the construction of the shelters is still unknown to the IDPs, hence the date for their relocation remains uncertain,” the UNHCR report said. 

Earlier in 2021, 25 families were relocated to Barangay Bongolanon shelters provided by the Philippine Red Cross as IDPs “were anxious about their deteriorating living conditions, especially that they rarely receive any assistance.”
The IDPs said they badly need food, livelihood and shelter assistance. 

The UNHCR and its partner Magungaya Maguindanao Inc. (MMI), distributed core relief items containing plastic sheets, solar lanterns and mosquito nets. 

In Makilala town, the UNHCR reported there are still IDPs staying in “five different (evacuation) camps and three self-settled camps established through the support and facilitation of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

At least 100 families from Sitio Bulawan in Barangay Malasila, Makilala town in North Cotabato evacuated to the Malasila National Vocational and Technology High School after the magnitude 6.5 earthquake on 31 October 2019.. Residents said massive landslides took place and three of them are missing, including two children. PHIVOLCS pegged the epicenter (06.92°N, 125.06°E) at a remote area in Makilala, about 5 kms southwest of the poblacion area. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

The local government has acquired the land for construction of permanent shelters by the NHA “within 2021 to 2022”  but “the living conditions of the IDPs are becoming worse in the camp sites.” It noted that in Batasan, electricity was cut off due to failure to settle the bills. 

In Kidapawan City, 163 families or 815 individuals are still staying in evacuation camps – in Barangay Balabag and Barangay Ilomavis. The UNHCR said that despite the efforts of the city government in taking care of the IDPs, “the limited budget remains a constraint.” It added that IDPs ‘rarely receive assistance from both government and humanitarian agencies.” 

IDPs, it said, expressed the need for food assistance and repair materials for their temporary shelters as they have no alternative sources of income and are feeling “insecure as they have no clue as to when they can be relocated since they have not yet received any information and updates from the city LGU.” 

The UNHCR report cited a November 2021 update from the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region 12 that there are 17 remaining evacuation centers in the province with around 1,436 families or 5,344 individuals. 

The report also noted an “undetermined number of IDPs already relocated in the towns of Magsaysay and Matanao with the NHA having handed over the housing units to the IDP beneficiaries.  Negotiations, however, are still ongoing in other towns on the identification and selection of relocation sites. 

The UNHCR also cited the Commission on Human Rights report that IDPs in Magsaysay town, particularly those from BarnagayTagaytay have been n provided by the LGU with relocation areas in Barangays Banate and San Miguel and that at least 240 families had been given housing assistance while 18 families  “continue to stay in dilapidated temporary shelters.”

The CHR report, however, added that the 240 families provided with housing assistance “have reportedly no access to potable water” and are compelled to return to their communities to fetch water while some opted to leave the relocation site.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)