DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 January) — An estimated 11,000 families in 24 barangays in the former “Ground Zero” in Marawi City (now referred to as MAA or ‘most affected area’) will finally be able to return to their villages for a week or up to 10 days in April to “recover personal belongings na puwede pa nilang magamit” (that they can still use) — before the clearing of the rubble starts third week of April, the chair of the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) said Friday.
But visiting residents have to sign waivers that if something explodes or something untoward happens, it will not be the responsibility of the TFBM as well as the local Marawi City government, TBFM chair and Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario told the Bangon Marawi press briefing in Malacanang on Friday.
Del Rosario said he was assured by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that their clearing operations in the 250-hectare MAA will end first week of April.
The troops are clearing the area of unexploded ordnance (UXOs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
By April, it would have been 11 months after these families fled their homes starting May 23, 2017, when the Maute Group and its allies laid siege on the city following a failed attempt of government to arrest the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon.
“I will give one week to 10 days gap para yung lahat ng residente, 11,000 families, makapunta doon sa kanilang mga buildings, sa kanilang mga bahay if they would like to recover personal belongings na puwede pa nilang magamit,” del Rosario announced.
He described the buildings and houses in the MAA as “90 to 100% destroyed.”
He said residents in the MAA will be given “from the first week to second week of April” because on the third week, land development will start.
The TBFM chair explained that the total debris estimate in the MAA is “about 3 million tons” and he was informed that clearing the debris would take two to three years. But del Rosario said the big developers, whom he did not name during the press briefing, assured them they can do it “in less than a year.”
Del Rosario added that the “total rehabilitation” of the MAA — land development, basic facilities – water, power and telecommunications which will make use of underground cables — “will take about four years or by the end of December.. 2021.”
Asked who the developers are, del Rosario told MindaNews: “we will inform the public once we have selected the winning developer.”
Residents who want to visit the MAA in April will have to coordinate with their barangay officials because “we need a waiver through their barangay captains that if ever something will explode, something will happen that will endanger their lives, it will not be responsibility of the Task Force Bangon Marawi as well as the local government unit of Marawi City government.”
Del Rosario explained that what they really want is for residents not to return to the area. “Ang gusto namin talaga, hindi na sila babalik. But because of the tremendous pressure ng 11,000 (families) who would like to see, we will allow it, provided they issue a waiver,” he said.
Sought for clarification on the waiver, Del Rosario told MindaNews: “before they can be allowed to enter the MAA in April, they should sign a waiver first stating therein that they are solely responsible if ever an accident occurs during their one week visit.”
Asked why they have to sign waivers when the AFP is supposed to have cleared the area of UXOs and IEDs by first week of April, he replied: “the AFP said they can only clear 80 to 90% of the whole MAA.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)