Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - The Philippines

Quick facts
Number of IDPsAt least 46,000
Percentage of total populationAt least 0.05%
Start of current displacement situation2008
Peak number of IDPs (Year)600,000 (2008)
New displacementAt least 97,000
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement, generalised violence, human rights violations
Human development index112

Internal armed conflicts have caused internal displacement in the Philippines for more than 30 years. In 2008 and 2009, renewed fighting between the government and rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the southern region of Mindanao led to the internal displacement of at least 750,000 people, until the parties declared a ceasefire in July 2009. While the vast majority of IDPs have since been able to return to their home areas, most have done so without any assistance and recurrent flooding there has severely disrupted their livelihoods and forced many to leave again.

During 2011, new displacements in Mindanao were mainly caused by violence between local clans, infighting among MILF groups and clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the communist rebels of the New People's Army. These events displaced around 100,000 people during the year, but most IDPs managed to return home shortly afterwards. The largest displacement took place in October, when almost 23,000 people were displaced in Zambonga Sibugay province by an AFP operation against MILF rebel factions. Between June and September, flooding displaced close to one million people in Mindanao, half of them in Maguindanao province and in December, tropical storm Washi forced more than 220,000 people to leave their homes in northern Mindanao. Some of those displaced by these natural disasters had already been displaced by conflict or clan violence.

Before the tropical storm hit Mindanao, the government reported that 46,000 IDPs were still living in government-recognised camps and relocation sites, nearly two-thirds of them female. Almost all of them were in Maguindanao, one of the majority-Muslim provinces of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, where most of the fighting had been concentrated. The camps included people displaced by clan feuds or the floods as well as those still displaced by the 2008-2009 conflict. These IDPs were unwilling to return because of their security concerns and the destruction of their homes and livelihood resources; and also because access to services remained better in camps than in return areas. Many IDPs felt safer visiting their homes during the day to farm and collect fruit or firewood, and then returning to the camps at night.

Meanwhile, according to the UN, an estimated 200,000 people who had returned home since 2009 remained in need of humanitarian assistance and support to help them rebuild their homes and lives. These returned IDPs often faced much harder conditions than those who remained displaced. Those who returned during 2011 faced similar problems to the earlier returnees: limited access to agricultural assets, education, health care services and to water and sanitation facilities. Having lost their household and productive assets and having accumulated significant debts as a result of their displacement, most of them could not afford to replace lost livestock and tools or to buy essential agricultural items. The situation of many returning IDPs was worsened by the June and September 2011 floods, which affected nearly three quarters of the 46 areas prioritised by the government for return in 2010.

The Philippine government provided significant assistance to people displaced by the 2008-2009 conflict, although most of it was short-term emergency relief. It has paid far less attention to IDPs' long-term reintegration and recovery needs, and it has seldom sought their views on matters related to their return. Nor has it offered them support to integrate in the place they were displaced to or to settle elsewhere.

The response of local authorities has reflected their limited understanding of protection concerns related to displacement and of their responsibilities to IDPs. The authorities have had to rely for guidance on unclear national policies and mechanisms; however an IDP bill filed in 2010 made gradual progress during 2011, as both parliamentary chambers approved an amended version.

Since the end of 2010, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process has overseen the Programme for Communities in Conflict-Affected Areas (known by its Tagalog acronym PAMANA), a broad peace-building and reconstruction programme for Mindanao which also incorporates IDP assistance. The government announced in July 2011 that as part of the PAMANA programme it would finance the construction of 4,000 core shelters for IDPs by 2012, although five months later it reduced this number to 2,300.

The international presence in Mindanao was limited during the conflict, but it grew significantly after the 2009 ceasefire. In 2010, UNHCR was authorised to set up an office in Mindanao and took over the leadership of the Protection Cluster from IOM. By the end of 2010, the focus of the response had shifted from emergency assistance to early recovery and development support. In December 2011, the UN launched a humanitarian action plan for the second consecutive year, requesting $65 million to support its continuing operations in 2012.


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