Marawi rehab: of 6,861 structures in Ground Zero, only 610 with consent for demolition

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 22 March) – Out of 6,861 structures in the 250-hectare, 24-barangay Ground Zero, consent for demolition has been given by owners of only 610 structures (8.9%), raising doubts if debris clearing would be completed by August 30 to allow residents to repair or rebuild their homes by first week of September.

But Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chair, assured the Sub-Committee on Marawi Rehabilitation of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Disaster Management during its public hearing here Wednesday that they would complete two tasks by August 30: clearing of the unexploded ordnance (UXOs) and demolition of buildings that are no longer classified as safe.

A tricycle plies a street of empty, destroyed buildings in Sector 1, Barangay Mapandi, Marawi City on Tuesday (19 March 2019). Most of the commercial and downtown areas of Marawi City are still off limits to residents who have been staying in tents and temporary shelters for almost two years since the siege by ISIS-linked gunmen in May 2017. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Del Rosario gave the same assurance to residents displaced from Ground Zero or Most Affected Area (MAA), during the consultation-dialogue with them on March 18 and 19 at the provincial gym, the same venue for the public hearing.

Marcelino Escalada, Jr., general manager of the National Housing Authority (NHA) also assured the Sub-Committee that they are confident they would meet the TFBM’s deadline. He said the demolition itself takes a “very short” time, at one structure in two hours.

He told MindaNews they have organized four demolition teams to work 24/7.But Escalada admitted at the public hearing that “the challenge is really the consent” from the owners.

“We will not proceed without consent and issuance of demolition order by the city government of Marawi,” he said.

Escalada said that with the consultations held on Monday and Tuesday, “if people will understand the purpose of the demolition, a week or two weeks from now, many will be applying for permits.”

Del Rosario assured Ground Zero residents last Tuesday that they would be able to return to their villages to repair or rebuild on the first week of September but as early as the first week of July, residents in the “least affected areas” of the MAA like Barangay Tolali can already return to their village to repair their residential and commercial structures provided they seek permits from City Hall and their structures are still considered safe.

“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).

Lands back to owners

Escalada noted the resident’s hesitance to give their consent, blaming this on the “misconception” that if they demolish the structures, the lots on where they stand would be taken over by government.

“That is not true. We assured them whatever we demolished, land will be reverted to them,” he said.

Del Rosario said if the residents give their consent, the TFBM will give them a document that they are the authorized and legitimate owner of the building and that they have the right to return after the demolition exactly where their house was constructed.

Before demolitions are undertaken, social cartography by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is required, Del Rosario explained. He said a total of 8,797 houses and lots have already been already profiled the Land Resource Management in the MAA and that the profiling would be completed “by the end of (this) month.”

“What is important is for us to identify the ownership and right boundaries as stated in the titles. Because we found out (that) most … coordinates of the title and actual location where houses are built are not compatible. In fact, some titles are situated along Lake Lanao,” he said.

He said residents would return to their villages with their land titles indicating the right coordinates.

Lanao Rep. Khalid Dimaporo said he hopes the TFBM will be able to complete the inventory as the end of this month. “Sana (hopefully) by March 30 or April 1, that inventory should be submitted to the Committee secretariat,” Dimaporo said, noting that without it, “when the 18th Congress starts (on June 30, 2019), magkaproblema tayo. It will not be a smooth sailing relationship between Congress and Task Force Bangon Marawi.”

Inter-Agency Committee

At the Bangon Marawi Live press briefing on January 26 last year, Del Rosario announced that the structures in the MAA were “90 to 100% destroyed,” its debris estimated at 3 million tons.

Asked why the number of structures is 6,861 but profiling has reached 8,797, Escalada referred MindaNews to Assistant Secretary Felix Castro, Marawi City-based TFBM Field Office Manager.

Castro told MindaNews that 6,861 is the result of the Post Conflict Needs Assessment conducted by the Office of Civil Defense in 2017, involving map and ground survey. while 8,797 involved interviews with residents.

From the National Housing Authority’s MAA Debris Management Status Report as of 18 March 2019, presented at the consultation dialogue with Internally Displaced Persons from the MAA on March 19, 2019 at the prvoincial gym in Marawi City and at the public hearing of the House Sub-Committee on Marawi Rehabilitation held at hte same venue on March 20, 2019.

MindaNews asked if the numbers 6,861 and 8,797 can be reconciled. Castro replied it can be done and cited the importance of the Inter-Agency Committee on Debris Clearing (IACDC) composed of representatives from the City Engineers’ Office, NHA, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Health and Bureau of Fire Protection.

IACDC evaluations are done through various means – ground survey, house tagging through drone shots, photogrammetry survey, lidar mapping survey and ground penetrating radar survey.

The NHA has guidelines on the demolition of damaged structures with consent from the owners and with no consent.

For those with consent, the owner of the structure will file an application for demolition permit with the Office of the Building Official, which will issue the permit. The NHA and contractor will then give the structure’s owner a notice of demolition before it proceeds with the actual demolition.

For those without consent, the IACDC determines whether the structure is still “habitable/safe/sound” or “uninhabitable/nuisance/unsound.”

If still habitable, there will be no demolition activity. If uninhabitable, the Office of the Building Official will issue a demolition order / demolition permit to the owner of the structure, after which the NHA and contractor will give the structure’s owner a notice of demolition before it proceeds with the demolition.

Escalada told MindaNews last Wednesday that out of the 610 who had given their consent, 133 have approved demolition permits.

Late last year, Finmat International Resources Inc. which was supposed to have done Sector 1 of the debris clearing and management of the nine-sector Ground Zero, demolished 75 structures.

Finmat’s contract was suspended in December following complaints by owners who did not give their consent for demolition. Of 75, the NHA said only 60 had given their consent.

The contract for debris clearing and management for Sectors 2 to 9 has been awarded to Eddmari Construction and Trading.

Gandamra’s residence was used as demo for demolition

On the clearing of the UXOs in Ground Zero, Del Rosario said “more than 4,500 explosives were already recovered or 90% clearing of the MAA but the biggest concern of Task Force Bangon Marawi is the recovery of 49 ammunitions as big as 500-pounder, kasinlaki ko na pag pumutok sa center ng gym, lahat tayo patay o masabi natin severely injured” (as tall as I that when it explodes in the center of the gym, all of us will be dead or severely injured).

The 49, ranging from100 to 500 pounder bombs, are “scattered all over the MAA and that is the reason why we do not like you to go back there for your safety unless ma-cle-clear na natin. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)\