Philippines passes historic bill to protect internally displaced

News Stories, 8 February 2013

© UNHCR/K.L.Eleazar
These displaced people in northern Mindanao were first affected by armed conflict, then uprooted by flooding when Tropical Storm Washi hit in late 2011.

MANILA, the Philippines, February 8 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday lauded the Philippines' Congress for passing a bill that seeks to protect the rights of more than 1 million internally displaced people (IDP) in the country.

The bill adopted on Wednesday will become law when it is signed by President Benigno Aquino III, making the Philippines the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to have comprehensive legislation that protects people against arbitrary displacement and guarantees the rights of the internally displaced in accordance with international standards, particularly the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. UNHCR sees this bill as model example for other countries.

UNHCR praised the measure as a milestone for the protection of internally displaced people in the Philippines, where decades-long armed conflicts and many natural disasters have caused massive displacement, especially in the southern island group of Mindanao. It is estimated that there are still some 300,000 people displaced throughout Mindanao.

"For the first time, we will have a specific law in the region that can make a difference in the lives of people who have fled and run for their lives due to conflict and disaster," said Bernard Kerblat, UNHCR's representative in the Philippines.

"We trust that the Philippines will carry on this good work of rebuilding the lives of the displaced as the bill establishes a system to protect people and give them assistance. We hope, too, that other countries in the region will follow suit," he added.

Natural disasters causing displacement are frequent occurrences in the Philippines. Most recently, in early December, Typhoon Bopha, left more than 1,000 people dead, affected 6.2 million people and displaced close to 1 million. Thousands of them remain homeless and are in need of humanitarian and other assistance in southern Mindanao.

The bill seeks to prevent displacement, and spells out rights during and after displacement. It also imposes heavy penalties against arbitrary internal displacement of any person, including non-combatants caught in the crossfire of internal armed conflicts.

It also spells out key rights of IDPs during and after displacement, emphasizing that displacement should not violate anyone's rights to life, liberty, dignity and security. The bill also importantly provides for monetary compensation for lost or damaged property or for the death of family members. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, an independent agency of the state, has been designated as the focal point for the protection of displaced people.




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Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

During Sri Lanka's 20-year civil war more than 1 million people were uprooted from their homes or forced to flee, often repeatedly. Many found shelter in UNHCR-supported Open Relief Centers, in government welfare centers or with relatives and friends.

In February 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire accord and began a series of talks aimed at negotiating a lasting peace. By late 2003, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons had returned to their often destroyed towns and villages.

In the midst of these returns, UNHCR provided physical and legal protection to war affected civilians – along with financing a range of special projects to provide new temporary shelter, health and sanitation facilities, various community services, and quick and cheap income generation projects.

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

An estimated 13 million people were affected when Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8. Thousands were killed and about 3 million are believed to be displaced - some of them living in evacuation sites, others on the ruins of their former homes. Tacloban City in Leyte province was one of the hardest-hit areas. A week after the typhoon made landfall, large parts of its coast remain flattened and piles of debris still line the streets. Working with the Philippines government and UN and NGO partners, UNHCR is airlifting emergency supplies for thousands of survivors. The agency is delivering tents, plastic sheets, mosquito nets and other critical aid. It is also co-leading the protection cluster with the government, working to identify vulnerable people and ensuring that they have access to basic assistance and services. UNHCR has appealed for US$15 million to meet these critical needs. UNHCR is now present in Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte province, as well as Guiuan in Eastern Samar province.

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

Six months after Typhoon Haiyan carved its deadly and destructive path through the central Philippines and forcibly displaced 4 million Filipinos, the area is like a big construction site as people get on with rebuilding their flattened homes as well as their lives. Many have moved into renovated homes while thousands of those who fled to cities like Cebu and Manila have returned home. But large numbers still live in tents or former evacuation centres; full recovery is still some way off and many people need help. UNHCR is working with the government and other partners to address the challenges and find solutions for the displaced. The refugee agency has provided assistance to more than 600,000 people, distributing shelter materials and household items, including solar-powered lanterns in areas where there is still no electricity. UNHCR is also supporting a government-led mobile civil registration project to give 100,000 people continued access to social welfare, education and employment. Photographer Jeoffrey Maitem marked the six-month milestone by visiting communities recovering from Typhoon Haiyan.

Typhoon Haiyan: On the Road to Recovery Six Months After the Storm

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