Marawi IDPs to Duterte: “Grant us our right to rebuild this city”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 31 March) — Displaced residents of Marawi City are appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte to grant the Meranaws their right to rebuild Marawi City as they rejected the proposed rehabilitation plans “being imposed upon us” — including an ecozone and a military camp — by “those who live far from us.”

In a letter of appeal to the President, the Ranao Multi Sectoral Movement (RMSM) described their future as “threatening” because “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 issued by the RMSM Thursday and read at the rally in Marawi Friday.

IDPs in Marawi rehab
Displaced Meranaws of Marawi City call for “genuine participation” of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Marawi’s rehabilitation during the “M’balingan Tano sa Ground Zero” rally on Friday, March 30, 2018 in the country’s lone Islamic city. Photo courtesy of LEAH TARHATA MEHILA

The letter of appeal said plans for the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi have been made “without our participation,” that these plans “neither bear the stamp of our will nor reflect our culture,” their mechanics and implementation “not clear to us.”

“But one thing is clear: the people of Marawi are largely left out. Those who came to present the plan dismissed our comments, recommendations, and protestations as though we knew nothing and have no business getting involved in rebuilding our very own city,” the letter said.

“Grant us, the people of the lake, the rightful heirs to this land, our right to rebuild this city with your guidance, support and protection,” the RMSM told Duterte, the country’s first Mindanawon President, and the first with Meranaw roots.

The blueprint of Marawi, the group stressed, is in the hearts and minds of the Meranaws “and not in the drawing boards of urban architects and master planners.”

Invoking his being a fellow Meranaw, the group said: “Mr. President, you belong to our people. You know we will not keep quiet and simply accept this. We cannot accept that those who know so little of us would map out how to rebuild our city. Our home for since time immemorial.”

The group also appealed to Duterte to “let Marawi be rebuilt the way our ancestors did: one house at a time, one masjid at a time. One village at a time.”

Although they welcome those who are willing to help, they expressed hope they will help rebuild “according to our will in pursuit of the will of Allah.”

“Stand with us, help us, please, be one of us,” they urged the President.

Displaced Marawi residents who participated in the “M’balingan Tano sa Ground Zero” on Friday, March 30, 2018, reach Rapitan Bridge (formerly Pumping Bridge) en route to Banggolo in Marawi City but were barred from proceeding to Ground Zero. Photo courtesy of ASMIN A. MONIB / Ranao Rescue Team

They also called on the President to “intervene in the planned rebuilding of our beloved city and to stop the plan to establish an Ecozone” which Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chair, Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario and Undersecretary Adoracion Navarrao of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) presented at the Muli Sectoral Forum at the provincial capitol of Lanao del Sur in Marawi on March 20-21.

“Please put a stop to the proposed Eco zone and military camp plans until we have been heard, until our dreams and aspirations, our cultural sensitivities and our faith find expression in the rebuilding of Marawi City, our home,” the President was asked.

No reasonable basis

Asked to comment on the RMSM’s appeal to Duterte, Del Rosario told MindaNews the claims have “no reasonable basis since the LGUs (local government units) have been part of our consultation process.”

“We intend to cascade our initial development plan to all sectors this April before its finalization. I have emphasized during our multi-sectoral consultation that it will be a top-bottom-up process but this group (referring to RMSM) refuses to listen, understand and accept the process,” he said.

Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario visits Barangay Sagonsongan in Marawi City on 25 October 2017. Sagonsongan is the site of the transitional shelters for displaced residents. MIndaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Del Rosario claimed majority of the Meranaws “support our development plan” including the construction of a new Army battalion camp.

“We have been explaining that these steps are undertaken to secure them during the Rehab phase and prevent the resurgence of Maute-ISIS led group,” said del Rosario, a retired military official who once headed the Task Force Davao when Duterte was mayor of Davao City.

“Still, we could not prevent the alleged cause-oriented groups to air their grievances for we cannot satisfy all, however good-intentioned all our actions are,” del Rosario said, adding that when they presented the development plan on March 21 in Marawi, Gorvernor Soraya Adiong “even whispered to me that she wished that she would still be alive when the Development Plans are completed.”

According to the timeline presented by Navarro on March 20, Day 1 of  the two-day Multi Sectoral Forum, the “final full blown”  Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program (BMCRRP) will be submitted to the TFBM on March 31 and to President Duterte on the first week of April.

The BMCRRP is for programs and projects located outside Ground Zero (now referred to as MAA or Most Affected Area) while EO 49 which exempts the National Housing Authority from the NEDA Guidelines on Joint Venture Agreements, “shall guide the reconstruction process of the MAA through a joint venture scheme.”

Instead of public bidding, government will subject the proposals to a Swiss Challenge, an alternative method for awarding contracts.

Assistant Secretary Felix Castro, Iligan City-based field office manager of TFBM,
told MindaNews on March 21:”Iba ang development plan for the MAA. Ibang usapan yun. Merong business proposals na pinag-aaralan ngayon para makapili ng isa. (The development plan for th eMAA is different. That’s another issue. There are business proposals that are being studied now to be able to choose one). Then subject to Swiss Challenge.”

Asked how many proposals have been submitted to the TFBM, Castro told MindaNews that fiveproposals had been received as of March 22; “Evaluation completed. Preparation of terms of negotiation ongoing,” he said.

Castro’s presentation at the Multisectoral Forum held at the provincial gym in Marawi on March 20, included a slide on the “MAA Rehabilitation Timeline” that shows February 8 as the deadline for publication of guidelines and procedures; February 12 for receipt of unsolicited proposals; February 13 to 20 for evaluation of proposals; March for negotiation and conferment of OPS (Original Proponent Status); April for the Swiss Challenge: and May for awarding of contracts and groundbreaking.

Project completion is due “end of 2021.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)