NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/22 August) — Maybe it’s good to leave Marawi as it is after the war has ended as a testament to the cruelty and barbarity of war. The ruins will remind us that no one wins a war. Every one of us loses painfully something, one way or another.
A new city may be built not far away. The ruins of the old city may yet become a major tourist attraction in addition to the huge tourist potential of Lake Lanao and the Meranao communities around the lake. The new city will be a tourist destination in Mindanao.
A new era will finally dawn upon the Meranao if they stand up to the challenge in building a culture of peace.
I like to believe that the new city shall rise out from the development of the lake area. Building a new Marawi requires that the lake communities be developed into an agro-tourism hub in Mindanao. The lake area with its cool climate, fertile volcanic soil and abundant water supply will develop into a vegetable and cut flower production center in southern Philippines, the capacity of which may yet pale Baguio City.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Mindanao State University (MSU) shall join hands in extending technical assistance, particularly in teaching farmers raise new high income-earning crops, particularly vegetables and cut flowers. The farmers may likewise be taught how to culture freshwater prawns and cold-water variety of tilapia in the lake.
Along this, the farmers may be assisted in forming cooperatives in the area of farm irrigation, farm inputs acquisition, and in the sales of products.
Above everything, in rebuilding the lives of thousands of war evacuees, the government should fully assist each family in having a new home and livelihood. It may be wise to encourage them to resettle in their respective hometown around the lake where livelihood potential abounds.
Aside from going into new agriculture ventures, the evacuees may be assisted in brassware production, mat-making using native materials and in weaving such attractive products as the colorful malong, wall decors, bedsheets and table runners, etc.
Later on as confidence builds up, the government may assist the entrepreneurs in the area in lake tourism enterprises, such as in operating mobile-floating restaurants, water air-sports facilities and the like.
The opportunities to rise above the hurt and agonies of war are huge. It is a must that funding assistance from the government and external sources should be addressed primarily in rebuilding lives, not so much in constructing infrastructures.
There is so much to do and to deliver rightly. Supposedly, at this time, the making of a comprehensive human development plan should have already been started. Planning should not be left, however, to separate agencies of the government. There ought to be body to handle this, gathering together the best minds in the country and the affected community, and to put the plan in motion. Call it the Marawi Reconstruction Authority or whatever. Suffice it to say that it is the body responsible and accountable for the job of rebuilding lives, in helping the Meranao help themselves.
Again, we should all be reminded that all development efforts could only progress in an atmosphere of trust and confidence and would only become sustainable in a culture of peace.
I love to imagine that one day such establishments as Botoy’s Lechon Manok (the proprietor is an MSU alumnus), Jolibee-Mang Inasal, McDonald,and later on, Gaisano, SM, and Robinson’s Place, be visible in the area. Their presence is the best indicator that Marawi has become a City of Peace. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)