Marawi rehab: “The people must be the owners of the plans that are being drawn for their future”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 01 July) — As government awaits the submission of requirements this week of a Chinese firm serving as second proponent for the reconstruction of Marawi City’s Ground Zero after the first proponent was declared ineligible, representatives of civil society organizations in Marawi City are reiterating their earlier appeal to government let Meranaws be “the owners of the plans that are being drawn for their future.”

“No matter how the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) glosses over it, for as long as they refuse to step aside and let the affected people primarily plan and do their own rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery of their lives and their city, themselves, any effort will fail, and will backfire on its face,” said Adel Ditucalan, President of the Ranao Watch for Empowerment Network.

Drieza Lininding, convenor of the Moro Consensus Group is asking government to revisit the platform and structure of  TFBM to allow Marawi residents to play “significant roles” and not just as “mere spectators” in the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi.

Lininding said the local government units in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur should be given voting rights in the TFBM.

“Marawi residents should be in the driver’s seat in determining their future,” he said, adding TFBM “should hold office in Marawi so that people can easily access its services.”

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

Ditucalan said the people “must be the owners of the plans that are being drawn for their future.”

She proposed “majority representation in the planning board” and
“full and prior approval or consent” of the Meranaws “before any implementation, which “should also be primarily drawn from the displaced Maranaw labor force and their human resources” can be done.

The TFBM’ Selection Committee, which serves as its bids and awards committee,  on June 18 declared Bagong Marawi Consortium (BMC),  the first proponent contractor for the 250-hectare Ground Zero, “ineligible to undertake the project.”

Marcelino Escalada Jr. general manager of the National Housing Authority (NHA) and co-chair of the Selection Committee told MindaNews on June 25 that the Power Construction Corporation of China or POWERCHINA, “the second proponent,” is still undergoing an “eligibility check” and that it has “until next week to submit all requirements for eligibilities – legal, technical and financial – before any negotiation will start.”

According to its website, POWERCHINA, a “wholly State-owned company” set up in September 2011, is an “integrated construction group that provides investment and financing, planning design, engineering construction, equipment manufacturing and operation management for hydraulic and hydropower projects and infrastructure, and its principal businesses include energy and power and construction engineering (including survey, planning, design and project

“Disappointment and blessing in disguise”

Lininding said the ineligibility of BMC “is both a disappointment and blessing in disguise.”

“Disappointment because this could mean further delay but it is also an opportunity to re-assess, revisit and revise the current approach of the national government towards rehab and recovery of Marawi,” he posted on his Facebook page on June 30.

Lininding recalled how the national government failed to consult the affected residents in the planning and crafting of NHA Board Resolution 6314 passed on February 7, 2018 which enumerates among others, the minimum scope of work to be offered to contractors.

“Yes we need to rehabilitate our roads but who needs six lane road inside MAA? Fifty  meters water easement from lake shore that will displace thousands of families? Convention and barangay complexes? Are those priority needs of the displaced civilians? NHA Board Resolution 6314 “must be amended to give in and accommodate the real needs and wishes of affected residents,” he said.

Lininding also raised concern about the line of expertise of POWERCHINA, a state-owned firm engaged in the construction of hydropower plants, among others.

“We cannot blame other Meranaws including me to speculate that since Swiss Challenge will be offered we fear that the National Government might offer Agus Power Plants as collateral,” Lininding said, although he quickly added “hoping we are wrong.”

“China-owned companies are notorious in collecting loans and debt,” he said.

The National Power Corporation continues to operate the Agus hydroelectric power plants in Mindanao that cascade downstream from Lake Lanao and generate some 700 MW and the Pulangui hydro plant in Bukidnon that generates 255 MW even as the 10-year exemption from privatization of the Agus-Pulangui complex under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act  of 2001 had lapsed.

The law exempted the complex from privatization for a 10-year period to maintain its  cheap rates.

Buildings lay in ruins after the five-month battle to retake Marawi City from ISIS-inspired terrorists. Photo taken Tuesday (24 October 2017). MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Lininding also proposed that the “normal procedure” be applied in the rehabilitation of Marawi and to ensure transparency in the process.

“Swiss Challege is not the only way to fast track rehab. We also ask and want to know how much is really allocated for Marawi by Congress from National Budget. If this Administration is really sincere then it should at least reflect in the national budget,” he said.

“Where is the promise of the President to rebuild our homes? What we are hearing instead is the construction of a military camp and housings for military personnel and other public infrastructure  which are least in our needs,” he said.

The ineligibility of BMC as first proponent delayed the clearing of the debris and the development work in the 250-hectare Ground Zero, delaying in turn the return of residents in the 24 barangays there.

Some 27,000 families resided in the area until the clashes between government and the Maute Group that started on May 23, 2017 and ended five months later, on October, forced them to flee. Of this number, around 11,000 families are homeowners while the rest are “sharers and renters.”

Housing Secretary and TFBM chair Eduardo del Rosario told a press briefing in Malacanang in April 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 supposed groundbreaking initially targeted for June.

Residents can then go back to Ground Zero to rebuild their homes “most likely first quarter of 2020,” he said.

On March 30 this year, the Ranaw Multi Sectoral Movement (RMSM) mounted a prayer-march hoping to enter Ground Zero and offer prayers at the Grand Mosque for those who were killed during the five-month siege.

Hundreds of Meranaws bringing prayer mats and placards demanding representation in the development planning, joined the activity but they were not allowed to enter Ground Zero.

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

In its appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte, the RMSM opposed the establishment of an ecozone and another military camp in Ground Zero, noted how the future “seems threatening” because “in the guise of rebuilding our home, 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,” it said, explaining that plans had been made “without our participation,”  plans that “neither bear the stamp of our will nor reflect our culture” and whose mechanics and implementation “are not clear to us.”

“But one thing is clear: the people of Marawi are largely left out,” the RMSM said.

Del Rosario told MindaNews on the day of the march that claims that no consultations were done “have no reasonable basis since the local government units have been part of the consultation process.”

In April, sectoral consultations were held. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)