DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 May) – The reconstruction of Marawi City must ensure the preservation of Meranaw identity and not just focus on repairing the damaged structures, Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said on Wednesday.
In a press briefing in Lanao del Sur, Zia said the government must keep an open communication line between Task Force Bangon Marawi, the local government unit, and residents to keep them informed of the rehabilitation process and manage their expectation.
He said keeping the public informed of the process will address frustration caused by the “fear of expulsion, fear of not knowing what’s going to happen.”
“Well, we don’t actually question the process, why the government is meticulously doing consultations and then acquiring legal grounds, putting up the technical specificities in terms of the reconstruction, prior to the reconstruction. We don’t question that, if it means delaying the process and we also do not question but rather we understand the frustration of the people,” he added.
Adiong said the affected residents must be transformed into development partners of government in Marawi.
The residents displaced by the five-month siege last year may start rebuilding their houses after the government clears the debris and completes the “horizontal preparations” in 12 to 18 months, Housing Assistant Secretary Felix Castro said.
Eduardo del Rosario, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council Chair told MindaNews on April 6 that 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 a press briefing in Malacanang on April 6 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.
Castro assured the Meranaws in a series of consultations that the government “will not touch the private properties” and that “rehabilitation will only involve government infrastructures.”
Following the government’s timeline, Castro said the rehabilitation should start by mid-June 2018 but the government has yet to identify a developer.
He said they plan to close the evacuation centers within the year and transfer the affected families to temporary shelters.
He said negotiation is ongoing with government’s lead proponent.
He said the inputs from various sectors in Marawi in a series of conversations and consultations from April to first week of May were considered in finalizing the plan before putting the project up for a “Swiss Challenge.”
He said they are trying to hasten the process but that they might fail to include the sentiments of the affected people if they would rush the drafting of the rehabilitation plan.
“We have been telling them that, series of consultations with the different sectors, and we will continue to inform them that we will not touch their property,” he said.
Castro explained that some properties would be affected by the road widening but that the owners will be consulted and paid by the government.
He said the Meranaws will be allowed to go back and rebuild their homes only after they have completed the clearing and horizontal preparations, which include the “laying out of the sewage, the lines for the telecom, electricity and the expansion of the roads.”
“It’s a very tedious task using big equipment, big machineries and will be dangerous for people to also be there while the debris clearing is being undertaken. And it will be faster if the developer will work free and unhampered. The sooner that will be finished, the sooner that the residents can also start building their homes,” he said.
He added they won’t demolish private properties without a request from the owners.
He said the developers are required to clear the damaged government facilities but the private owners must tell the government if they want their properties to be included in the clearing.
He asked the residents to give the developers time to finish the clearing.
In the same press briefing, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said there can be no full social healing for Meranaw families affected by the conflict without transitional justice.
Dureza emphasized the need for social healing in order to restore the moral fiber that was destroyed by the conflict.
He said the damaged structures could easily be repaired by engineers unlike the work on “repairing back the destroyed social fabric, the relationship that had been broken,” which the secretary stressed needs equal attention.
“We cannot move on and make things already feel normal and better if there is no justice given, the correct justice needed, to redress the wrong that was committed and that will be a start of the social healing. There will be no full healing of relationships unless justice is served,” he said.
He said the Marawi experience should serve as lesson not only for the government but also for the residents.
“And you know better bakit nangyari ito at mas makakabigay kayo ng direction sa gobyerno, hindi dapat ang national government magde-decide ano ang dapat gawin (And you know better why this happened and you can give better direction to the government. It should not only be the national government which will decide what to do). This will all come from you downstairs, which is a very important part of social healing,” he said.
Dureza acknowledged the need to give the residents a time to express their anger as they did during the iftar last year where the government gathered insights directly from them.
He said his office has lined up similar activities for this year’s Ramadan, emphasizing the need to put a “peace lens” into the government’s rehabilitation efforts to ensure there would be no projects that will “trigger more ‘unpeace’ or more conflict.”
“There will be no easy healing if you don’t allow opportunity for a vent that will allow them to express first…because we believe that social healing can only take place if there is ownership by them who are the victims. It is not for anybody upstairs who were able to provide to them the solution; they provided it themselves,” he said.
Dureza asked the people to be patient because there is “no magic formula” in the rehabilitation process and that reconstruction cannot happen overnight given the many challenges amid the “contrary voices and feelings.”
“We have seen what Marawi was before, a thriving community, the Islamic City of the country, what happened on May 23 last year and what it is today. But this is not yet the stage where we are already satisfied. We are working, government is doing its best to restore as much as possible what was destroyed and I think we are on the road,” he said.
According to Philippine Information Agency director general Harold Clavite, P436 million from the Department of Social Welfare and Development Support and Maintenance Services has been accessed by 41,093 displaced families who have returned to barangays under Clusters 1 to 9. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)