DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 April) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday urged Meranaws, particularly those displaced from Marawi City’s Ground Zero, the former main battle area between government forces and the Maute Group (now refered to as MAA or Most Affected Area), to be patient and not to hurry him up because he wants the 250-hectare area cleaned up first of rubble and unexploded ordnance before they can rebuild.
“Kayong mga Moro, wag kayong magmadali” (You, Moro, do not rush)…. “you cannot erect a post there. There are rubbles and rocks,” Duterte said at the Davao International Airport before departing for the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province, China.
“Give us time to clean the downtown area tapos papasok kami (and then we will enter). We will clean it up of leftovers o yung hindi pa na, unexploded ordnance (UXOs) just to make it safe for you,” he said.
The area has been rendered relatively safe as the military had targeted the first week of April to wind up operations to clear the area of UXOs and IEDS (improvised explosive devices). It had cleared around 80%, allowing Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) and the City Government of Marawi to initiate Kambisita sa MAA (Visit the MAA) where for three days per sector on April 1 to May 10, residents from the 24 barangays could return to their villages to salvage whatever they can from the rubble of what used to be their home.
But Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, TFBM chair, told MindaNews on Friday afternoon that Ground Zero residents can return to the area to rebuild their homes there “most likely first quarter 2020.”
He told Malacanang reporters on Friday noon that the timeline for the debris clearing and site development in Ground Zero is “about 18 months” from June 7, the target date for groundbreaking.
“So if that is undertaken on time, then after 18 months, or one year and six months, the different owners — we will do it by phasing — can apply for construction of building permit, housing permit from the city government so that once and for all everything will be organized because we don’t have a data bank, data base of all these buildings and houses,” he said.
“We will only allow (residents to rebuild) once the developer is through with their site development in providing the utilities, then the individual private owners of lots can apply for a building permit from the city government,” del Rosario said.
“Do not hurry me up”
Duterte said residents should not believe the left, who, he claimed, has been telling residents that “we will not allow this, we will not allow that.”
“I do not receive orders from anybody. Wala ako dyan. Kung anong sabihin ko as President na yan ang mabuti, wag ninyo akong pakialaman. (I’m not into that. When I as President say this is good, do not meddle with me). I will do … basta sigurado ako (for as long as I am sure), I will do what is best for you so do not hurry me up,” Duterte said.
He revealed China is donating additional 500 million for Marawi although he did not indicate if the amount was in Chinese yuan, US dollars or Philippine peso.
Duterte said Marawi cannot be rebuilt with just a few million pesos, given the extent of destruction of the country’s lone Islamic city.
Del Rosario last Friday said it would take from 17 to 20 billion pesos to rehabilitate Ground Zero or the MAA and another 55 billion pesos for areas outside the MAA. The MAA used to be the commercial district and home to 24 of Marawi City’s 96 barangays.
“Just stay put. Kung wala naman kayong pera, at wala naman kayong plano (If you don’t have money and you don’t have a plan), leave it to government. But for you to impose upon me conditions, I am sorry. You just have to follow government. I, we did not create the chaos there. Pinapasok kasi ninyo yung mga gago eh (You allowed those fools to enter),” Duterte said, referring to the Maute Group that laid siege on Marawi on May 23 last year, along with its allies.
“I am not mad at you, but please next time…” Duterte said without finishing his sentence.
He said the military camp of “regimental size” in Marawi “will stay there” because “it will assure Marawi of eternal peace,” explaining he does not want a repeat of what happened last year.
“(Sa) ayaw man ninyo at sa hindi, kagaya ng Boracay (Whether you like it or not, like Boracay), that is it,” Duterte said, referring to the tourist destination he ordered closed to visitors for six months, for rehabilitation.
Residents of Marawi are not objecting to the presence of the regimental size camp which is Kampo Ranao, base of the 103rd Infantry Brigade for decades. What they are objecting to is the construction of yet another military camp at the site of the Old City Hall whose groundbreaking was graced by President Duterte on January 30.
Army Chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista on January 31 told MindaNews that a battalion under the 103rd will occupy the new military camp. “No new division will be deployed or moved to Marawi,” he said.
“We have the money, we will help you,” Duterte said, still addressing Marawi residents. “It is not intended for everybody lalo na those who do not need it,” he said, referring to opportunists whom he did not name.
“Mas bright ako sa inyo” (I am more intelligent than you are), said the country’s first Mindanawon President, whose grandmother was a Meranaw.
Reactions from Marawi
Drieza Lininding who actively campaigned for Duterte’s Presidential bid, said he “never imagined that I would live to witness a tyrant dictator addressing us victims of the Marawi Siege and putting the blame on us.”
“There’s no point in arguing with him. We are helpless and we put our fate entirely to our creator who controls everything. But we will continue to assert our rights and sentiments,” he said.
Lininding appealed to the President to ask Congress “to conduct an inquiry on what really transpired before and during the siege” so that “once and for all we can move on.”
“For us who lost everything and being blamed for it as if it is our own doing, the injury is double for us. May we also remind the President whom we campaigned hard for in the past election that the Philippines is still a democratic country that respects and follows the law. What he says or wants is not the law. Due process must be observed here and we know where he is going with this. He cannot fool us again,” he said.
Samira Ali Gutoc of Ranao Rescue Team stressed “it is our right to return, a fundamental obligation of the State to facilitate for internal refugees.”
“No cash aid, no food aid, the way to survive is to get back to our commune,” she said.
“We deserve self-determination in housing, shelter to be truly federal. Teach us to fish, not just give us fish. We have to drive away heartbreak, angst, joblessness, frustration by hammering every nail back to its place,” she added.
The Ranaw Multi Sectoral Movement (RMSM) in its open letter of appeal to President Duterte on March 29, urged him to grant the Meranaws their right to rebuild Marawi City, noting that “forces are moving that threaten to do far greater damage to our people than what the war has done.”
“In the guise of rebuilding our homes, in the guise of laying down the foundations of a better, progressive and modern city, the will and vision of those who live far from us who built this city are being imposed upon us. This is an invasion of a different kind. This one threatens to rob our soul,” said the appeal, distributed via social media and read at the March 30 rally in Marawi.
Del Rosario on Friday said awarding of the contract is targeted for May 31 and groundbreaking will be held on June 7. Completion of debris clearing and site development is expected end of 2019. Residents can return and rebuild their homes by first quarter of 2020 and completion of the entire project is last quarter of 2021. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)