COTABATO CITY – Public consultations were recently held simultaneously in Marawi City and Cotabato City, marking a significant step towards safeguarding the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Bangsamoro region.
The consultations aimed to provide a platform for IDPs, community leaders, and other stakeholders to express their opinions, concerns, and suggestions regarding the proposed measure.
The Bangsamoro Parliament sought to personally engage with the affected individuals and listen to their sentiments, ensuring that their voices were heard in the legislative process.
The proposed bill, known as BTA Bill No. 32 or the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Act, was introduced by the Government of the Day and has been identified as one of the cabinet legislative agenda of BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim.
It not only aims to protect Bangsamoro residents who are displaced to areas outside BARMM but also addresses the rights of non-Bangsamoro residents who are displaced to areas within the region.
The number of IDPs in the BARMM has risen dramatically over the past few years, according to the Ministry of Social Services and Development.
During the consultations, the MSSD presented alarming figures, highlighting the pressing need for measures to protect IDPs.
Since 2013, an estimated 159,289 individuals have been displaced in Mindanao, primarily due to armed conflict, natural disasters, crime or violence, and clan feuds.
In 2022 alone, within the BARMM, 58,915 and 68,911 individuals were displaced due to natural disasters and armed conflict, respectively.
Recognizing the urgent need to address the plight of IDPs, the proposed measure aims to establish a comprehensive framework for their protection, rights, and welfare. It seeks to address the multifaceted challenges faced by IDPs, including their physical safety, access to basic needs, healthcare, education, and livelihood opportunities.
In Lanao del Sur, Presiding Officer Atty. Anna Tarhata Basman assured attendees that all insights gathered during the consultations would be thoroughly discussed by the Committee on Social Services and Development. She emphasized the importance of carefully considering the inputs provided by stakeholders.
As an IDP herself, Samira Gutoc, head of the Marawi Rescue Team, stated that the proposed legislation includes provisions that will foster an environment conducive to protecting conflict victims and the economy.
Meanwhile, in Cotabato City, other MPs held a separate public consultation to gather comments from stakeholders in Maguindanao and the BARMM Special Geographic Area.
Atty. Raisa Jajurie highlighted several salient provisions of the bill. These include ensuring access to basic needs, the right to health and education, freedom of movement in and out of evacuation centers and settlements, recognition and replacement of documents, and security and protection for IDPs.
She underscored the significance of this bill in providing immediate relief and humanitarian assistance to IDPs, their families, and communities.
The Bangsamoro Government, along with its ministries, agencies, offices, and constituent LGUs, will play a crucial role in executing the mandate of the proposed legislation.
While there is currently no national law in the Philippines specifically addressing the rights of IDPs, she emphasized the significance of regional efforts in establishing mechanisms and sustainable solutions.
The consultations in both cities allowed the Bangsamoro Parliament to engage with a broad range of perspectives and consider the diverse needs and challenges faced by IDPs across the region.
Another round of public consultations is scheduled to be conducted in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in the coming weeks.
Atty. Jajurie said that the committee is targeting the presentation of the committee report in July.
Atty. Jajurie said that the committee plans to submit the committee report in July. (LTAIS-Public Information, Publication, and Media Relations Division)