Breaking deadlines, breaking ground in Marawi’s battleground

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 02 November) — The much-delayed groundbreaking rites to signal the start of rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Ground Zero, the main battleground during the five-month siege last year, finally happened on Tuesday, October 30, 2018, a year and 13 days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the country’s lone Islamic city “liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation for the people.”

The date for the groundbreaking had been set and reset at least a dozen times, the most recent ones due to the unavailability of the President. Early this month, the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) had hoped to time it on October 17, the first anniversary of Duterte’s liberation declaration. But even that did not push through and the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) tentatively set it for October 28, only to reset it to October 31, “confirmed,” as Undersecretary Falconi Millar, head of the TFBM Secretariat told MindaNews on October 21, quoting the PMS.

But three days before October 31, it was reset again to October 30, with Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, TFBM chair, now leading the rites.

Why the change of date and why the President was not attending, Millar could not say. “No explanation,” he told MindaNews on October 28.

At the groundbreaking, del Rosario opened his speech by offering an explanation why the President could not attend. He is the father of 105 million Filipinos, he said, and every day there are “ongoing concerns, very important activities, equally important activities.”

He gave a similar answer to the query of a German reporter at the press conference that followed: what could be more important than the groundbreaking in Marawi?

Housing Secretary and Task Force Bangon Marawi chair Eduardo del Rosario addresses the audience at the Rizal Park in Marawi City’s Ground Zero during the groundbreaking rites Tuesday, October 30, 2018. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

The groundbreaking is supposed to signal the start of rehabilitation of the 250-hectare, 24-barangay Ground Zero, now referred to as the Most Affected Area (MAA), the former main battle area between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group and its allies.

Del Rosario did not respond when MindaNews asked shortly after the groundbreaking, about the advisory that had just come in, that the President was visiting neighboring Cagayan de Oro on October 31 — the supposed date that the PMS had earlier confirmed for the groundbreaking — to distribute certificates of land ownership awards to agrarian reform beneficiaries in Northern Mindanao.

Since he declared Marawi “liberated” on October 17, 2017, Duterte has visited Marawi twice — on January 30 and May 11 — the first during the groundbreaking rites for the second military camp that residents are objecting to and to distribute certificates of acceptance and occupancy of transitory shelter units in Barangay Sagonsongan, where he again asked for forgiveness and vowed: “We try (sic) to build a new city. I will guarantee you for the remaining years that there will always be money for you, that you’ll be able to rehabilitate your business kung talagang gusto lang ninyo (if that’s what you really want).”

On May 11, the President returned to Marawi City, at the Provincial Capitol Gym, for the “presentation of surrendered firearms and distribution of assistance to ISIS-Maute group surrenderees.”

In his speech Tuesday, Del Rosario said media reports that the groundbreaking has been postponed at least ten times are “exaggerated” and that at most, it was “maybe four to five times.”

MindaNews had earlier reported that the groundbreaking had been postponed at least ten times, based on the announcements of Del Rosario and other officials.

In fact, June, which Del Rosario said at the groundbreaking was the original schedule, was not.

The first time Del Rosario announced a groundbreaking schedule was during a press briefing in Marawi City on January 26: it would be “on the third week of April.”

26 January 2018, TFBM press briefing, Marawi City

Del Rosario says the Armed Forces of the Philippines would finish its clearing operations – to rid Ground Zero of unexploded ordnance — on the first week of April, to pave the way for the rehabilitation.

Ground Zero’s residents — 11,000 families he says — (total before the siege was 27,000, of which 11,000 were owners, the rest “sharers and renters”) will be given “one week to ten days” to allow them to visit their homes and buildings “if they would like to recover personal belongings na puwede pa nilang magamit.”

Groundbreaking, he said, would be “on the third week of April.”

09 February, TFBM press conference, Malacanang

Undersecretary Falconi Millar, head of TFBM Secretariat, announces the deadline for unsolicited proposals for the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) for the MAA rehabilitation plan would be on February 12 and they would convene the Bangon Marawi Selection Committee which he heads, on February 13. The processing of the unsolicited proposals would be from February 13 to 18 and will be done by 14 department members for the technical working group.

He says the TFBM has “maintained our deadlines that the groundbreaking ceremony for the development of the Most Affected Area to be on the last week of April 2018.”

20 March, Multisectoral Forum, Provincial Gym, Lanao del Sur

TFBM Field Manager Felix Castro presents updates, including a “MAA Rehabilitation Timeline” that shows February 8 as the deadline for publication of guidelines and procedures; February 12 for receipt of unsolicited proposals; February 13 to 20 for evaluation of proposals; March for negotiation and conferment of OPS (Original Proponent Status); April for the Swiss Challenge: and May for awarding of contracts and groundbreaking. Project completion is due “end of 2021.”

06 April. Bangon Marawi press briefing, Malacanang.

Del Rosario announces the “rehabilitation timeline.”

“This is our timeline: We are done with the evaluation of proposals that’s why we have selected the Bagong Marawi Consortium. We are now undergoing negotiation. And if we will have a successful negotiation, that’s the time that we are going to give that developer what we call original proponent status. And once it is given to him the following day, this will be published in the national dailies so that the Swiss Challenge will start.”

“So we are given three weeks from May 4, so we expect the Swiss Challenge to be completed by May 25 – and if successful again, we will award on May 31 whoever will be the winner in the Swiss Challenge. Once awarded on May 31, the groundbreaking will be on June 7 of 2018 and completion will be in the last quarter of 2021.

20 April. Bangon Marawi press briefing, Malacnanag

Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) says the rehabilitation timeline is on track. “We will be—our goal is to have the groundbreaking by early June. So we will complete the selection process for the developer by the end of May.”

04 May Bangon Marawi press briefing, Malacanang

OCD ASec Purisima says negotiations with Bagong Marawi Consortium were still ongoing. “We’re still fine tuning and finalizing the terms of the contract of the development, of the project development. So once this is done we will continue with the Swiss Challenge. We are still on track with the target which is groundbreaking by June. So on track pa naman ito, we are just finalizing the terms.”

Purisima says there is no date yet for the Swiss Challenge but definitely this May… and then on track tayo sa groundbreaking by June.

12 May

Asked if the Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program (BMCRRP) has been approved, del Rosario tells MindaNews the final plan will be presented “during the Cabinet meeting first week of June for approval,” while the target date for groundbreaking is 16 June, after the Ramadan.

16 May

Del Rosario tells MindaNews negotiations with BMC will start on 17 May, and the Swiss challenge will be seven to 10 days after. The date of the groundbreaking would depend on the outcome of the Swiss challenge, although the tentative schedule is 16 June.

He says groundbreaking has been moved from June 7 to June 16, in deference to the Ramadan, the month-long fasting.

He says the groundbreaking rites, which President Duterte will attend 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.

02 June

Del Rosario tells MindaNews negotiations are still ongoing, but the project groundbreaking is now set for “last week of June” while BMCRRP is slated for approval on 11 June.

06 June

Del Rosario tells MindaNews negotiations are only “90 percent” done and will continue until 9 June. The Swiss challenge would then take place on 11 or 12 June. The remaining 10 percent that needs to be discussed covers four minor items out of 22 projects/programs. Groundbreaking, he added, will be “first week of July na.”

08 June, Bangon Marawi press briefing, Malacanang

TFBM Chair del Rosario announces groundbreaking will be “first week of July”

Asked if that is final, he replied: “Sa akin, masabi natin na 90/95 percent final. Everything is fluid. We are working on a time table. And I think this first week time table maybe July 5 or July 6, will be 90/95 percent accurate.”

16 August. 8th All-Agency Meeting of TFBM. Makati City

Powerpoint presentation at the meeting shows funding requirement for Marawi Rehabilitation is P86.5 billion broken down as follows: 47.1 billion for BMCRRP; 20.05 billion for compensation bill; 17.2 billion for MAA rehabilitation; 1.2 billion for livelihood assistance, and rebuilding of mosques for 882 million pesos. The total is actually 86.432 billion

New target for groundbreaking, according to the Powerpoint presentation, is September 19.

17August, Bangon Marawi press briefing, Malacanang

Millar say the Bangon Marawi Selection Committee is currently undergoing negotiations with Power China and they expect to complete the negotiation “by next week, by the end of next week” so they expect the groundbreaking to be “by third week of September.”

“Before we said that the groundbreaking will be as early as May, but because of numerous issues we encountered during the procurement process, so nagkakaroon tayo ng pagbabago with regard to the groundbreaking. So we are now saying that it will be on Sept 19, the groundbreaking, but it will not affect our target deadline of completing the Most Affected Area rehabilitation by December of 2021.

24 August. Bangon Marawi press briefing. Marawi City

Del Rosario says he has been telling the Cabinet and the public that groundbreaking “will start as early as June or July. But unfortunately during the course of the negotiation with Bagong Marawi Consortium, nagkaroon tayo ng mga issues of legal, financial and technical requirements of the developer.”

He adds that the Selection Committee concluded that they had an “unsuccessful negotiation with Bagong Marawi Consortium, because of the lacking submissions of necessary requirements. So we proceeded to the next developer which is Power China and for the last two months we have been negotiating with Power China and I was told by the selection committee this week that today they will know the exact time table; and if ever the negotiation will be successful or not.”

“So, by next week, Task Force Bangon Marawi will be ready to announce if a successful negotiation was reached; and if reached, we can give you our definite time table of groundbreaking and eventual rehabilitation of the most affected area.”

21 September

Millar tells MindaNews that TFBM in coordination with National Housing Authority “is already preparing for the groundbreaking anytime first week of October and yes as correctly stated by TFBM chair, depending upon the availability of the President.”

01 October

Asked if a new date has been set for the groundbreaking rites in Marawi, Millar tells MindaNews: “we requested PMS (Presidential Management Staff) for the available date of the President from October 5 to 8; However considering that October 17 is the Marawi Liberation anniversary, it may be more meaningful to do it on such date”

03 October

Asked if the groundbreaking is confirmed for October 17, Millar tells MindaNews “most likely October 17 will push through as all preparations are geared to that schedule.”

12 October. Bangon Marawi press briefing, Malacanang

Millar tells the Malacanang Press Corps that groundbreaking is slated for October 17.

Del Rosario says they are “already prepared for the groundbreaking. Our people are now on the ground preparing for this. And since, October 17 is very significant, as the declared date of liberation of Marawi, as declared by our President. So, we find it fitting that the groundbreaking will be on October 17 also.”

14 October

Millar tells MindaNews groundbreaking on October 17 won’t push through. “We 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.”

19 October

Millar tells MindaNews that the PMS has informed them that groundbreaking
“is confirmed on October 31, exact time to be announced.”

28 October

Millar tells MindaNews groundbreaking will be on October 30 at 10 a.m. and as advised by the PMS it will be led by Del Rosario. No explanation was given was to why the date was moved a day earlier and why President Duterte would not attend

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito (center), Task Force Bangon Marawi chair Eduardo del Rosario (L) and Undersecretary Falconi Millar, TRBM head of secretaiat, lay the time capsule during the groundbreaking to signa the start of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi’s Ground Zero on 30 October 2018. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

30 October 2018

Groundbreaking, Rizal Park, Marawi City, one year and 13 days after President Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation for the people.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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