Help for ‘Yolanda’ victims lacking

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The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has expressed surprise that despite the government spending so much for infrastructure projects, relocated Typhoon Yolanda victims still do not enjoy basic services, such as water and electricity.

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Chaloka Beyani, also professor of international law at the London School of Economics, on Friday said he visited TaclobanCity (Leyte) and parts of Mindanao from July 21 to 31 to see conditions of those displaced by disasters and armed conflicts, as well as the status of development projects in ancestral lands of indigenous peoples.

“Attention and resources appear to be waning before durable solutions are achieved and some IDPs remain in dire situations,” he told a news conference held at New World Hotel in Makati City (Metro Manila).

Tacloban and some other parts of the Visayas were devastated by Yolanda, a super typhoon, which made landfall in November 2013, killing some 6,3000 and displacing hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Beyani said providing transitional dwellings is not enough.

The victims, according to him, must be transferred to permanent homes, away from the same harm they experienced almost two years ago.

Beyani said there is a need to enact a landmark law that will ensure and protect the rights of IDPs.

“An ‘almost law’ is as good as no law at all. For a country prone to disasters and the displacement effects of long-standing conflicts, it is essential to enshrine the rights and protection of IDPs into law. Not to do so after a decade of debate sends a wrong signal about the government’s commitment to ensuring respect for their rights and withholds essential legal protection,” said the UN expert, who came to the Philippines at the invitation of the government.

For victims of armed conflicts whom he visited in Mindanao, he urged all concerned to intensify efforts to achieve inclusive and lasting peace, including passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, as means to ending the strifes, which have displaced millions over the last decades, including the September 2013 (20 days) Zamboanga City siege launched by 500 armed members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and which displaced more than 100,000 residents.

“Conflict, militarization and displacement have become the common pattern in some localities and responses to conflict-driven displacement crisis need to be more affective in some areas where they have gone from poor to almost non-existent,” said Beyani, a Zambian.

He added that the displacement also resulted in destruction of livelihoods.

Beyani cited the IDPs in Tampakan where a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine will potentially displace over 500 people, majority of whom are indigenous people.

“[Mining has] an incalculable impact on their cultures and ways of life that are part of the rich and diverse heritage of the Philippines that must be protected or otherwise lost, perhaps forever. Indigenous people struggle to survive away from their ancestral lands and require special protection, including through full implementation of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act.

Beyani will present a report of his visit and make recommendations to the Government of the Philippines and the UN Human Rights Council in 2016.

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