Demolition of Marawi’s Ground Zero starts after Ramadan; Swiss Challenge next week

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 May) — The groundbreaking ceremony in Marawi City’s Ground Zero, intended to signal the start of development work in the former main battle area between government forces and the IS-inspired Maute Group, has been moved from June 7 to June 16, in deference to the Ramadan, the month-long fasting, Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chair of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) said.

Del Rosario told MindaNews in a telephone interview Wednesday night  that the groundbreaking rites, which President Rodrigo Duterte will grace to “witness the demolition” will depend on the outcome of the Swiss Challenge but the tentative date, set before the Ramadan began, is June 16.

Ramadan started on May 17.

Residents scavenge for whatever has value from the ruins of their homes and buildings during the Kambisita sa MAA (Visit the Most Affected Area) on May 9, 2018. Kambisita allowed residents of Ground Zero to visit their villages at three days per sector, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 1 to May 10. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Del Rosario said negotiations with the Bagong Marawi Consortium (BMC), composed of five Chinese and four FIlipino firms will begin on May 17 and will take seven to 10 days.

He said the Bangon Marawi Selection Committee, the equivalent of the Bids and Awards Committee, is negotiating on behalf of the government on “all itemized projects as to quality and costs,” after which it will be subjected to the Swiss Challenge which will run for three weeks.

The Swiss Challenge is a form of procurement where government receives an unsolicited bid and in the event another proponent submits a lower price proposal, the original proponent shall have the right to match that price.

Del Rosario had explained in a press briefing in Malacanang on December 1, 2017 that there would be no public bidding in developing the 250-hectare Ground Zero which comprised 24 barangays before the Marawi Siege.

He said they called “big-time developers, foreign and national” and allowed them to see Ground Zero, now referred to as MAA or “most affected area” so they could submit their “unsolicited proposal.”

Swiss Challenge

Once the “unsolicited proposal” is submitted, del Rosario said in December, it would be presented to the Cabinet which will decide on “the best concept na pwedeng i-apply sa Marawi City.Kasi dapat makita natin dito na talagang at the end of the day, it’s a new city, lalo na ‘yung central business districtat talagang mapaganda natin, hindi lang better but much, much better.”

Once the proponent is selected, it will be subjected to the Swiss Challenge, 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

He explained that if a proponent says he could do the project for 100 billion pesos, another developer can challenge the proponent by offering to do it at 75 billion and if the original proponent cannot match the PhP 75 billion offer, the project will go to the other developer.

The Swiss Challenge, he said, is “like bidding din but faster and better.”

In a telephone interview Wednesday night, Del Rosario said that if there is no challenger, they will award the contract to the BMC.

Del Rosario estimated the Ground Zero project cost at 17 to 20 billion pesos.

Demolition, recycled debris

Asked how long the demolition (referred to by the TFBM as “debris clearing”) will take, del Rosario replied it will be as long as there are buildings whose structural integrity has been compromised.

Earlier this year, del Rosario described the buildings and houses in Ground Zero or the MAA (Most Affected Area) as it is now referred to,  as “90 to 100% destroyed.”

Several buildings collapsed from air strikes, others were destroyed by bombs and heavy gunfire, or by fire.

What remains of what used to be the homes or shops of residents in Marawi’s Ground Zero on 08 May 2018. MIndaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Asked if they will still seek the consent of the building owners to demolish the rubble of what used to be their homes or shops, Del Rosario said, “I think we need their consent.”

He said they will discuss with the local government how best to do it but it may be coursed through the 24 barangay captains.

That’s padian (market) in the foreground, Lake Lanao behind it, k08 May 2018. BOBBY TIMONERA / MindaNews

Del Rosario said the National Commission for Culture and the Arts will decide on the preservation of heritage sites. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines which declares historically significant sites, structures, events and personages, is under the NCCA.

Ground Zero was home to at least 27,000 families, 11,163 of whom were home owners while the rest were “sharers and renters,” according to Assistant Secretary Felix Castro, TFBM Field Office Manager.

Residents of Ground Zero were allowed o visit their villages for three days per sector from April 1 to May 10, under the Kambisita sa MAA (Most Affected Area) organized by the TFBM and the City Government of Marawi.

An imam views the ruins around him from the window of a damaged mosque in Barangay Datu Naga in Marawi City on Tuesday (8 May 2018). MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

The next time they can return to the area to rebuild their homes and stores would be “most likely first quarter 2020,” del Rosario told MindaNews on April 6.

Del Rosario told a press briefing in Malacanang earlier that day that their timeline for the “debris clearing” and site development, which includes the road network and the underground utilities for water, electricity and telecommunications, is “about 18 months” from the groundbreaking in June.

Norhana Panandigan throws out of her third floor balcony a plastic flower decoration during her visit to Marawi City’s Ground Zero on May 8, 2018. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Asked where the debris from the demolished structures would be dumped, del Rosario said these will be brought outside Ground Zero where four crushers will “further grind” what has been estimated to be 13 million tons of debris.

He said five to six million tons of debris will be used for the road network and to filling for low-lying areas while the rest would be used “if there will be a reclamation site.”

Castro said there is a proposal to reclaim a portion of Lake Lanao where the “cleaned debris” would be dumped. But he added that the proposal is “still under study and for consideration by concerned agencies.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)