(excerpt from Philippines Humanitarian Bulletin, Issue 11 | Dec 2017 – Jan 2018)
Among those who were displaced is the Maranao People Development Center (MARADECA). The organization has been operational in Lanao del Sur since 1999, assisting people in social economic advancement through peacebuilding, health, sanitation, education and development initiatives. MARADECA has been working closely with rural and urban communities in Marawi city and Lanao del Sur primarily focused on assisting women and children of displaced communities. They operate from an office located in Ragayan in Marantao – one of the areas affected by the conflict.
On 23 May, when fighting broke out in Marawi city, they were holding a meeting with partner Catholic Relief Services (CRS) at their office. About half of the staff members were in the office that day. Fighting started in Basak Malutlut, with members of the nonstate armed organization Maute Group exchanging gunfire with the military. As fighting continued, Faradika Salik, a project officer, was worried about how best to escort their visiting colleagues out of the city. Dressed in a hijab, she managed to get the CRS staff to safety through Saguiaran to Iligan. “I was also worried for the safety of our staff and those who were out in the field” say Farida. Her surname was the same as that of local politicians implicated in the conflict. “I had to present my birth certificate at every check point to prove I was not related to him.”
Amiladin Imam, 25, is a MARADECA field officer and was in Saguiaran when fighting broke out. On his way to work, he was stopped by the military in parts of the city. Fearing for the safety of his family, he requested permission from his office to gather wife and children, who were still in school. Access to the school was difficult as fighting escalated. He was also worried about getting his grandmother, whose house is near the market area, from Datu Dansalan. The next day, his relatives managed to reach his Grandmother and took the family by canoe through Lake Lanao to Masio. “I never thought the fighting would spread in the city,” says Imam.
MARADECA opened an office in Iligan and accounted for all their staff. They reorganized their operations and assisted in the data-gathering of IDPs as they continued to seek refuge in Iligan. Working in partnership with CRS and Plan International, they are assisting both home-based IDPs (in Piagapo, Marantao and Saguiran) and those in evacuation centres, building partitions and child-friendly spaces. They are also constructing women-friendly spaces in the same municipalities. MARADECA partnered with Plan International to construct bathing cubicles, washing areas and latrines in these locations. Juhairas Mai, 23, is helping MARADECA implement a profiling for beneficiaries in Kapatagan, Balabagan, Budipusoi, Wao and Bunburan.
Most of them operated from their hotels and rented houses. Some of the staff went as far as Tubod, about 50 kilometres from Iligan, to rent a place.
MARADECA reopened their office in Marawi on 27 November 2017. “We appreciate the assistance of the humanitarian community, and the Mindanao Humanitarian Team for assisting the Government to address the immediate needs of IDPs,” says Farida. “The challenges of return and resettlement of the displaced community are enormous. Our hope is that peace and reconciliation will prevail in Marawi.”