Del Rosario: Marawi’s ‘Ground Zero’ residents can return home by September 2019

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 20 March) – Residents of the 24 barangays in the 250-hectare ‘Ground Zero,’ the former battleground between government forces and the Maute Group in 2017, can finally return to their villages to repair or rebuild their homes by the first week of September 2019 after the debris clearing is done by August 30, Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chair of the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) said at the consultation dialogue held at the provincial gym here Tuesday.

But residents residing near the bridges, in what he said were the ‘least affected areas’ in ‘Ground Zero’ (also known as Most Affected Area or MAA) like Tolali, can start returning by first week of July to repair their residential and commercial structures provided they seek a permit from City Hall and their structures are still considered safe.

A Marawi resident raises a complaint during a dialogue between Task Force Bangon Marawi and affected residents at the Provincial Gym in Marawi City on Tuesday, March 19,2019. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

“Titingnan ng city government kung bahay mo ay totoong matibay pa” (The city government will check if indeed your house is still structurally sound), del Rosario said, adding that everyone who makes repairs need to get permits from City Hall “para once and for all lahat ng business establishments naka-record na sa city government at magbayad na po kayo ng taxes” (so that once and for all, all business establishments are recorded by the city government and please pay your taxes).

September 2019 is one month short of two years after President Rodrigo Duterte declared on October 17, 2017 that Marawi had been “liberated from the terrorist influence” and that day marked the start of rehabilitation.

It took a year after liberation — on October 30, 2018 – before TFBM, after several postponements, finally held its groundbreaking rites at what used to be Rizal Park in the 250-hectare, 24-barangay Ground Zero, which has been classified into nine sectors. The groundbreaking for the debris clearing and management was for the pilot area – Sector 1 comprising only one barangay, Tolali.

It was there where Del Rosario vowed residents will be able to return home “middle of 2020” or even earlier.

He said then that developers need 18 months for the debris management and road network widening and provision of basic utilities, after which “you will be allowed to construct your houses provided kukuha kayo ng building permit sa city” (you will get building permits from the city).

At that time, the TFBM’s master development plan listed debris management as the first of 22 components in the minimum development requirements for the MAA rehabilitation. The first five components were to be done through negotiated contracts but only Sector 1 of the first component had been awarded as pilot, to Finmat International Resources, Inc.

Finmat’s tarpaulin on the timeline of the debris clearing in Sector 1 showed it would be completed by end of January but its contract was suspended in December for allegedly demolishing 75 structures, 15 of them without the consent of their owners.

Notices of award for Sectors 2 to 9 were issued in January to Green Asia Construction and Development Corporation, Mamsar Construction and Industrial Corp. and CJI General Services, Inc.

Marcelino Escalada, Jr., general manager of the National Housing Authority (NHA) told MindaNews that the three firms had an initial deployment of personnel and equipment “to undertake surveys, detection and identification of UXO (unexploded explosives) location plus the voluntary demolition of structures owned by the mayor” but their contract was terminated because they failed to submit the special PCAB (Philippine Contractors Association Board) license of their joint venture.

On February 27, the National Housing Authority (NHA) approved the management’s proposal to award the contract for the demolition of structures and debris management to Eddmari Construction and Trading, Inc. at its negotiated bid of 2.16 billion pesos for a contract duration of 240 months or eight months.

Eight months from March would be November 2019.

Escalada had earlier told MindaNews that that Sectors 2 to 9 project was awarded to Eddmari, which developed its Scout Ranger Ville in San Miguel, Bulacan and the soldiers’ village in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte.

He denied allegations that the NHA had blacklisted Eddmari. He acknowledged that when he assumed the post in 2016, he issued show cause orders and notices of termination for 60 projects including those of Eddmari due to slippage, “but after due process and assessment and inspection, Eddmari’s show cause order did not graduate to termination. There was no termination or blacklisting of Eddmari. Show cause order is an administrative due process which we observe before any termination is issued.”

On Tuesday, Del Rosario also announced that the MAA residents will receive starting on the first week of April 73,000 pesos each – 53,000 pesos for the transitory family support package and 20,000 for livelihood settlement grant.

Del Rosario sought the residents’ cooperation, reiterating that 56 government agencies “are helping you to rise again” but despite their efforts, he said, they continue to bear the brunt of criticisms.

Various complaints were aired Tuesday by residents of 12 barangays (the first 12 barangays had their consultation last Monday)

Task Force Bangon Marawi chair Eduardo del Rosario breaks into tears after a deluge of complaints from residents and a call was made for his resignation during a dialogue with residents of Marawi’s Ground Zero or the Most Affected Area (MAA) at the Provincial Gym in Marawi City on Tuesday, March 19,2019. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Del Rosario was unable to finish answering questions raised by Drieza Lininding of the Moro Consensus Group as he broke down in tears. Lininding had raised various issues and challenged del Rosario if he would resign if residents cannot return to their villages in Ground Zero by September.

Del Rosario regained his composure several minutes later, after somebody from the crowd prefaced his question with a note that they would not call for his resignation.

The TFBM chair then challenged Lininding to “resign from civil society” if residents in the ‘least affected areas’ in the MAA can return by July to repair their structures.

Lininding had left the gym when Del Rosario issued the challenge.

“Resign from what? Mine is not a job. I am a victim and among the 100,000 displaced civilians from the MAA Marawi. Every single day of delay in rehab is a suffering for most of us. But if the TFBM and the national government can live up to its own imposed timeline and the passage of the Compensation and Reparation Bill, I will gladly commend them in public, but until then I will remain critical,” Lininding told MindaNews. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)