Zamboanga: One Year On
The fighting that broke out in Zamboanga city between the separatist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine army one year ago lasted three weeks, leaving more than 10,000 houses destroyed and over 120,000 people displaced. A sea of stilts is all that remains of the traditional wooden houses in the coastal areas of Rio Hondo and Mariki, where the MNLF were flushed out by the military. From the onset of the humanitarian response, IOM has been co-leading camp coordination and camp management (CCCM) with the government, and distributing vital relief items such as tents, tarpaulins, solar lamps, cooking stoves and charcoal, as well as constructing transitional shelters.
On 4 September, the roadside temporary camp at Cawa-Cawa was cleared and the Badjao (sometimes called ‘sea gypsies’) families were moved to transitory sites in Buggoc and Mampang, built specifically for Badjaos. As in all cases of resettlement, IOM conducted community consultations beforehand.
The situation of the Badjaos is just part of the complex humanitarian response IOM is facing in Zamboanga where the culturally specific needs of the diverse displaced population need careful consideration. As well as Badjaos, several other groups were affected by the conflict including Tausug, Yakan, Bisaya, Chabacano and Samal. “It was very challenging at first,” says Brian Lustre, IOM Zamboanga’s Head of Office. “Here people must listen to their tribal leader. If a leader says ‘no’ to transferring to a site, the rest of the group must follow.”