Palace urged to certify bill for internally displaced persons as urgent

MANILA-- A lawmaker at the House of Representatives has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to certify as urgent a bill that seeks to protect the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Deputy minority leader and Kabayan Partylist Rep. Harry Roque made the appeal amid the ongoing clashes between government troops and members of the Maute group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

Roque said a total of 180,000 have already been internally displaced by the armed conflict in Marawi as of May 31. The number of IDPs reached the 200,000 mark this June.

"Given this and the fact that the clash between government forces and the Maute group in Marawi has not yet abated, the urgency of House Bill 222 could not be emphasized more," said Roque, who is a principal author of the measure.

HB 222 seeks to provide for the protection of rights of IDPs during and after displacement, as well as their return, local integration or resettlement elsewhere.

Under the bill, internal displacement is defined as an involuntary movement or forced evacuation of any person or group of persons who flee or leave their homes or places of habitual residence, as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights, or natural or human-made disasters.

The bill mandates national authorities with the primary duty of providing humanitarian assistance to IDPs, ensuring that "proper accommodation is effected in satisfactory conditions of safety, nutrition, water and sanitation, health and hygiene, and that members of the same family, especially women and children, are not separated."

"The government has to prioritize giving a sense of normalcy to the lives of those affected. And with each passing day, it becomes more and more urgent to help bring those affected by the conflict in Marawi back on their feet," Roque said.

"The massive displacement of Marawi residents and the destruction of property -- the damage wrought by the conflict -- could have been avoided if only the armed forces did not ignore warnings as early as last year that ISIS had already infiltrated Mindanao," he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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