Meranaws to Duterte: “Let us go home;” Groundbreaking reset to Oct. 28

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /14 Oct) — Displaced from their homes and source of livelihood since15 months ago, Marawi residents who have yet to return home, particularly those from Ground Zero, the former main battle area between government and the IS-inspired Maute Group, have launched a new movement to collect on a year-old promise of President Rodrigo Duterte: the rehabilitation of the country’s lone Islamic city.

On October 17, 2017, Duterte, the first Mindanawon to lead the nation and the first to claim he has Meranaw roots, declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning ofrehabilitation for the people.”

Photo from the FB page of Let me Go Home Movement shows the bridge in Banggolo and the ruins. The photo was taken on October 7, 2018 but the text “Let us go home” is computer-generated, MindaNews was told.

One year later, however, rehabilitation of the 250-hectare, 24-barangay Ground Zero has yet to begin and the groundbreaking — reset several times since its first target date on June 7 — and supposedly set for October 17, the first anniversary of the “liberation,” — will be moved again to October 28 because the President is not available on the 17th.

Lawyer Falconi Millar, Secretary-General of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and head of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) secretariat, told MindaNews on Sunday afternoon that they are “ready and well prepared for October 17 but we will move it to the next available date of President Duterte which as per advice of the Presidential Management Staff is 4th week of October, likely October 28.”

“Debris management works will be undertaken immediately after the groundbreaking,” he said, adding that he was informed by the contractor that “equipment and manpower are already in place for the groundworks immediately after the groundbreaking ceremony.”

Finmat International Resources, Inc. (FIRI) has been awarded through negotiated contract, the debris management for the first of nine sectors in Ground Zero or what is now referred to as the Most Affected Area (MAA). Sector 1 comprises only one barangay – Tolali.

“Let me go home”

Displaced residents and civil society organizations on October 7 launched “Let Me Go Home Movement” through social media, calling on government to just allow them to go home to their villages in the MAA as waiting for it to rebuild Marawi has taken so long.

The Movement urges fellow Meranaws and friends to upload a photograph in their social media accounts, either solo or as a group, with the message “I am from Marawi. Let me go home” or “Let us go home.” Friends of the displaced also joined in the uploading of photos with the message “I have friends from Marawi. Let them go home.”

Several activities have been lined up by displaced residents to send their message to President Duterte a year after he declared Marawi “liberated.”

Residents check what is left of their building after the five-month war. Photo taken on 8 May 2018. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Acram Latiph, Director of the Institute of Peace and Development in Mindanao based at the Mindanao State University main campus in Marawi, told MindaNews on Sunday that civil society organizations will have a “simple gathering of homesick people, young, old, IDPs (internally displaced persons) and everyone else who care for Marawi to share stories and support one another in weathering the challenges of Marawi Rebuilding” on October 16, the day before the supposed arrival of President Duterte.

“We want the whole world to know that we can no longer wait for the government to rebuild Marawi and thus we are asking that we be allowed to go back to Ground Zero for us to do the rebuilding of our homes,” retired Literature Professor Dalomabi Bula told MindaNews on October 7.

Eighteen year old Faykha Khayriyyah Alonto Ala, newly elected chair of Barnagay South Madaya Proper said there have been “too much grand plans, plans that clearly do not have any direction. Let us keep it simple: grant the people their rights to their properties, help them rebuild their lives in the way they want,  just our old Marawi, our home.”

Bring them home

Millar said letting the displaced residents go home is what Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) is doing.

“That is what Task Force Bangon Marawi is doing – to bring our Maranao brothers and sisters from the MAA back to their home, safely, at the soonest possible time, and to a home that is with an environment that is modern Islamic and culturally sensitive,” he told MindaNews in response to the appeal of the “Let Me Go Home Movement.”

Millar added they have conducted “more than 200 dialogues and will continue to conduct more to engage our  Maranao brothers and sisters and to update them as developments unfold,” he said.

He said TFBM “will ensure that they will come home as soon as it is safe to do so and as soon as horizontal development per sector is accomplished and as soon as doing so would not impede the rehabilitation in adjoining sectors in the MAA.

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

Housing Secretary and TFBM chair Eduardo del Rosario, told MindaNews  on Sunday that going home is “not doable” as of now.

“I fully understand the sentiments of some residents in expressing their wishes but not doable considering the magnitude of the needed rehabilitation in the entire MAA,” Del Rosario said.

“I am sure they will be satisfied once the whole rehab is over,” he said. Del Rosario has repeatedly assured they will still be able to complete rehabilitation by end of 2021.

But a delayed start in the rehabilitation of  Marawi’s Ground Zero means the estimated 27,000 families displaced from the 24 barangays will have to wait some more before they could return and rebuild their homes and shops.

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 in June.

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

At the TFBM press conference in Malacanang on October 12, del Rosario said the displaced residents can return home “not later than the second quarter” of 2020. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)