UN: BBL passage to solve Mindanao displacement
A United Nations envoy urged the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as a “clear solution” to the problem of massive displacement in Mindanao.
Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDP), also urged the Philippine government to build permanent houses for families displaced by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” and other natural disasters, noting the lack of basic services in temporary shelters.
A Zambian national and professor of international law, Beyani was in the Philippines from July 21 to 31 to look into the situation of persons displaced by disasters, armed conflict and development projects in the Philippines. He visited areas in Maguindanao, Zamboanga, Tacloban and South Cotabato.
In a press briefing in Makati, Beyani brought up the urgency to pass the BBL as a measure to avoid the further displacement of people in Mindanao.
“The passing of the law is a clear solution in relation to the identity of the population (Bangsamoro) and its capacity to self-determine,” Beyani said.
On persons displaced by natural disasters, Beyani said lack of infrastructure for basic services including water, sanitation and electricity in temporary housing sites were a problem for families displaced by Yolanda in Tacloban. He noted the “lack of the government’s full commitment to move on to building permanent settlements.”
He said some families “seem to have become stuck in substandard ‘bunkhouse’ accommodation or fallen entirely through the protection net.”
These things were happening, he said, despite the huge resources spent or earmarked for infrastructure projects.
Take concrete steps
Beyani urged the government to promptly take concrete steps to resolve problems affecting IDP. This included the passage of a law on the rights of IDP following more than a decade of deliberation.
In 2013, the Philippine Congress passed a bill seeking to protect the rights of more than one million IDP in the country. President Aquino, however, vetoed the bill saying some provisions of the bill were questionable.
“An almost law is as good as no law,” the UN rapporteur said. “For a country prone to disasters and displacement effects of long-standing conflicts, it is essential to enshrine the rights and protection of internally displaced persons into law,” he said.
He advised the government to treat displaced persons equally and without discrimination.
Equality of treatment
The IDP in an area should not be seen from a political lens or from the lens of who they are, whether they are Muslims or they have a different religion, Beyani said. “There should be equality of treatment without tarnishing them with a political brush,” he said.
He noted that the international community had already accepted that “centralization and integration (in the government) don’t work.”
“Devolution and giving greater self-determination is the way forward,” he said.
The UN envoy visited areas in Mindanao but was prevented from going to some areas where there were reports of firefights, he said.
He also went to Tampakan in South Cotabato where a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine would potentially displace over 5,000 people, most of them indigenous people.
“Armed conflict or intrusive development projects not only displace indigenous peoples and subject them to conditions that may bring about their destruction as peoples. Those also destroy their homes and livelihoods,” the envoy said.
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