DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 Nov) – President Rodrigo R. Duterte has assigned Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario to lead the rehabilitation of Marawi City, which was destroyed by nearly five months of fighting between the military and Islamic State-inspired Maute Group.
In a media briefing held upon his arrival from a two-day working visit in Japan Tuesday evening, he said the Department of National Defense (DND) is the “overall entity” that will supervise the rehabilitation program in the war-ravaged city. Lorenzana heads Task Force Bangon Marawi, a multi-agency charge with the recovery, rehabilitation and rebuilding of Marawi.
“It should be Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. He has a lot of undersecretaries that can work out something for Marawi, then it goes to one single person,” Duterte said.
The President said he recently turned down proposals from his cabinet members how they would proceed with rehabilitation because he does not like creation of different committees, as these will only drain government funds.
He said from Lorenzana’s table, all proposals should go straight to Del Rosario, a retired Army General who replaced Vice President Leni Robredo as the chair of the Housing and Urban Coordinating Council (HUCC).
Duterte said all cabinet secretaries will directly send reports to Del Rosario on matters concerning Marawi rehabilitation. If the rehabilitation goes awry, he said it is either Del Rosario or Lorenzana who will answer for it.
He said the creation of committees is not necessary if the assistant secretaries and undersecretaries can just directly communicate with cabinet secretaries.
During the Mindanao Hour at Malacañan Palace last week, Civil Defense Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima said there is a budget of at least P5 billion for relief efforts this year and another P10 billion for next year.
Purisima added site development for shelter in Barangay Sagonsongan in Marawi continues under the Department of Public Works and Highways while a private company has volunteered to develop and deliver a water distribution system.
Del Rosario told MIndaNews on October 25 at transitional shelter site in Sagonsongan that 500 to 600 houses out of the initial 1,175 temporary shelters they are building will be finished by mid-December, with President Duterte handing over the certificates of award to beneficiaries, particularly those who have no more homes to return to at Ground Zero in Marawi.
At least 6,000 families from nine villages outside the war zone have started returning home since October 29.
New military camp in Marawi
Duterte also disclosed the plan of putting up a military camp in Marawi.
“It’s a huge tract of land. The military is ready. Just give them a little bit of space where they can conduct everything they should know about soldiering. Palagay ko naman they are not ready to claim as so many areas there. And Marawi proper, we have to concede it to the Moro. The Moro will have to clean up the place and they can have it,” he said, referring to the Maranao residents of the area.
“But just about in front of Marawi, I will create a new camp, maybe one regiment or one division there within the vicinity of greater Marawi area,” he said.
Duterte earlier said he welcomes any investigation on the possible abuses committed by the military in trying to eliminate the Maute Group.
He said he holds himself solely responsible for what happened.
Duterte was reacting to a question raised concerning the plan of some residents from Marawi who are planning to file a class suit against him for turning the Islamic City into a wasteland.
“I agree with you that if you have a gripe, and you think that justice should be done, and if they think that the Philippine courts would be prejudiced or biased, they can always go to the International Criminal Court,” he added.
The President said martial law was declared last May 23 following the Maute Group’s siege to “answer the challenges of the moment and I take full legal, criminal, and civil liability.”
Duterte said the military and the police will study how “it evolved and how to fight a new war” should another threat of urban terrorism arise.
Citing the experience of some countries in the Middle East, he said the concrete high-rise buildings made it difficult for government forces to eliminate the terrorists.
Duterte noted that it took Middle East countries a long time in subduing urban terrorist attacks “because there is always a high-rise building, where you can position yourself comfortably while waiting for the kill.”
The deaths of Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called emir of ISIS in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute on October 16 marked the end of the nearly five months of military operations in Marawi.
“Now that combat operations have been terminated, we are rebuilding Marawi to its former glory. From its ruins, Marawi shall once again rise as the center of moderation and tolerance in Muslim Mindanao,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)