UNITEAM senatorial candidate Harry Roque has said he wants more protection for internally displaced persons (IDPs) of calamities and insurgencies, noting an annual average of 3.6 million Filipinos displaced by disasters from 2011 to 2020.
If elected senator, Roque said his first Senate bill would be a supplemental budget to the 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA) to aid victims of Typhoon “Odette” rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
In February, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported that there are still 99,560 displaced persons in Regions 6, 7, 8, 10, Mimaropa (Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Romblon), and Caraga (Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur) – They are living in evacuation areas or staying with relatives or friends.
Roque would also reintroduce the “Rights of Internally Displaced Persons” measure detailing IDP rights and entitlements. As a former party-list representative in the 17th Congress, he filed this under House Bill 222.
The human rights and health advocate describes IDPs as Filipinos forced to evacuate or expelled from their homes within the national borders by long-standing armed conflict and humanitarian emergencies.
Roque said, “IDPs should not be treated as mere “collateral damage” of separatist uprisings, natural calamities, and man-made disasters. They also have a stake in human security and development.”
The proposed law provides a mechanism where IDPs can be awarded damages for prohibited acts of arbitrary displacement and establishes the human rights commission as an IDP institutional focal point.
It also sets up a joint congressional oversight committee and an inter-agency coordinating committee to monitor compliance with the proposed measure.
The measure also calls for a right-based approach towards protecting IDPs impacted by organized violence, clan wars, human rights violations, implementation of development projects, and climate change.
Roque’s bill would protect IPD rights during and after displacement and their return to their habitat, local integration, or resettlement in any part of the country.
It also recognizes the cultural heritage and traditions of displaced indigenous peoples.
The former presidential spokesman added that based on available data from the United Nations (UN), “It is sobering to note that every Filipino is susceptible to becoming an IDP.”
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an affiliate of the UN Statistical Commission, said the country’s yearly displacement figures are triggered mainly by typhoons, storm surges, floods, and high winds.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and Protection Cluster Philippines, some 805,677 individuals were displaced in Mindanao due to natural disasters, armed conflict, and clan feud in 2021.