Finally, groundbreaking in Marawi’s Ground Zero on Oct. 31

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 Oct) — After more than 10 postponements, groundbreaking rites to signal the start of rehabilitation efforts in Marawi’s Ground Zero will finally be held on October 31 with President Rodrigo Duterte as guest of honor.

Falconi Millar, Secretary-General of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and head of the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) Secretariat told MindaNews that the Presidential Management Staff has confirmed Duterte’s attendance on October 31, exactly nine months and one day since his last visit to Marawi on January 30.

The 250-hectare Ground Zero, the former main battle area between government forces and the Maute Group and its allies, is now referred to as the Most Affected Area (MAA). The five-month exchange of gunfire, bombings and aerial strikes reduced to rubble many of its buildings and homes.

Before the siege began on May 23, 2017, it was the cultural and commercial district of the city and home to some 27,000 families (at least 11,000 home owners and the rest classified as “sharers and renters”) in 24 barangays.

The venue for the groundbreaking rites is what used to be Rizal Park, now without monument of Jose Rizal which was among the casualties of war.

Rizal Park, Marawi City on 25 October 2017. MIndaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

The venue had been prepared for the supposed groundbreaking on October 17, the first anniversary of President Duterte’s declaration that Marawi City had been “liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation for the peoples.”  It did not push through as the President was not available.

“Walking tour”

Asked what the groundbreaking rites would entail, Millar told MindaNews: “This is one full event. There will be a full program which will cover the walking tour for the printed perspective of the MAA development plan; vehicle tour of the second site of temporary shelters and select MAA sites.”

He said they requested PMS to include in the program a time for the President to address the MAA stakeholders.

Asked what the  “walking tour” is, Millar replied, “only within Rizal Park,” for the President to view the “printed perspective of the MAA Development Plan.”

Asked if this is the same perspective presented by Housing Secretary and TFBM Chair Eduardo del Rosario in March, Millar said: “new ones.”

Millar promised to send a copy by email but MindNews has yet to receive a copy as of 8:30 p.m. Sunday.

Drieza Lininding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group told MindaNews that the TFBM should consult the Meranaws if these are new plans. “Dapat maikonsulta nila yan kasi iba na yan sa naipresenta before.”

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

The President is also scheduled to visit the second transitional shelter site in Boganga outside Ground Zero where 1,500 transitory shelters are supposed to be constructed, and visit also “select MAA sites” but Millar said these have yet to be identified.

The last time Duterte visited Marawi was on January 30 when he led the groundbreaking rites for the new military camp that would be put up in the old City Hall site, and the distribution of certificates of acceptance and occupancy of transitory shelter units in Barangay Sagonsongan.

Debris management

October 17 was supposed to have been the date for groundbreaking but on October 14, Millar told MindaNews that while they are “ready and well prepared for October 17,” they “will move it to the next available date of PRRD which as per advice of PMS is fourth week of October, most likely October 28.”

Millar on October 14 said debris management work “will be undertaken immediately after the groundbreaking” and that they had been informed by the contractor, Finmat International Resources, Inc. that the equipment and manpower “are already in place for the ground works immediately after the groundbreaking ceremony.”

The nine sectors of the 250-hectare, 24-barangay ‘Ground Zero’ as classifired by the Task Force Bangon Marawi.

Debris management will be done in Sector 1 of the nine-sector Ground Zero. This sector comprises only one barangay — Tolali.

Millar explained that the MAA has been classified into nine sectors “to allow optimum use of time for the rehabilitation.”

On October 21, Millar said preliminary works in Sector 1 started on October 19.

First five components

According to Millar, the first five components of the MAA rehabilitation which will be done through negotiated contract, are: debris management; site development plan with feasibility study;  RROW (road right of way) acquisition; concrete road infrastructure with provision for bike and pedestrian lanes; and provision for underground utilities such as water, power and telecoms.

Debris management is “programmed to allow simultaneous works on sectors already subjected to debris management,” Millar said.

Residents search for items they could salvage from what remains of their house in Marawi’s Ground Zero or Most Affected Area (MAA) on April 5, 2018, under the Kambisita sa MAA project of the city government of Marawi and Task Force Bangon Marawi. Kambisita allows Ground Zero residents to visit their homes – or what remains of them – for three days from April 1 to May 10.
But they will be able to return and rebuild their homes only on the first quarter of 2020. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

The debris management contract was approved the National Housing Authority (NHA) Board on October 3, and was awarded to Finmat International Resources, Inc.

Millar also told MindaNews then that the total cost for the entire MAA rehabilitation project is PhP 15 billion, inclusive of 3.05 billion for debris management.

On October 12, del Rosario told the Malacanang Press Corps that Finmat will undertake the debris clearing in Sector 1 for 75 million pesos.

Del Rosario also estimated that residents in Ground Zero will be able to return home by the second quarter of 2020. Earlier in April, del Rosario said they would be able to return first quarter. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)