“Final timetable” for return to Marawi’s Ground Zero: between July and Nov. 2019

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 April) – Residents displaced from Marawi’s Ground Zero since the 2017 siege will be able to return to their villages, in batches between July and November, to repair or rebuild their homes or shops, Housing Secretary and Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chair Eduardo del Rosario said.

Del Rosario announced what he descried as the “final timetable’’ for the rehabilitation of Ground Zero or the Most Affected Area (MAA) during a press conference morning of April 12 in Marawi City. A video recording of the press briefing can be found in the TFBM’s FB page.

Last month, Del Rosario gave a different timetable. At the consultation and public hearing of the House Sub-Committee on Marawi Rehabiliation on March 18-19 and March 20, respectively, he announced that Ground Zero residents can return to their villages by September 2019 as the clearing of unexploded ordnance (UXOs) and demolition of structurally unsound buildings would be completed by August 30 but those in the “least affected areas” of the MAA can start returning by July.

Demolition of structures with the consent of their owners is ongoing in Marawi’s Ground Zero. The chief of the Task Force Bangon Marawi says the “final timetable” for the residents’ return to their villages is between July and November 2019. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

On April 12, Del Rosario said the clearing of UXOs will be done by August 30 and the demolition of damaged structures completed by November 30.

At the end of November 30, “naka-map na po ang lahat ng mga lote at lahat ng owners ng buildings dito sa MAA,” he said.

He said the rehabilitation they are doing is “slow but sure,” emphasizing that the safety of all residents must be ensured.

“I assure you by November 30, andito na and tapos na ang ating debris management (debris management will be completed),” he said.

He appealed to residents for “patience, understanding and support” to hasten the rehabilitation.

Sked for return

Ground Zero, the former main battle area between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group and its allies, comprises 24 barangays spread across 250 hectares. The area has been classified into nine sectors.

Del Rosario said residents in Sector 1 can return by July provided they secure a permit from the city government to rebuild or repair their homes or stores.

He said residents in Sectors 2 and 3 can return in August; Sectors 4 and 5 in September; Sectors 6 and 7 in October and Sectors 8 and 9 in November.

The primary challenge facing the TFBM, he said, is the clearing of UXOs.

He said there are still 49 unexploded “powerful bombs” that have yet to be retrieved from Ground Zero. These are 110-pounder, 260-pounder and 500-pounder bombs.

The number – 49 – has not changed since the TFBM’s update at the public hearing last month.

Del Rosario also said that demolition of damaged structures, which is to be done with consent from the owners, will be completed by November 30, 2019.

Last month, the TFBM told the House Sub-Committee on Marawi Rehabilitation of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Disaster Management that out of 6,861 structures in Ground Zero, consent for demolition had been given by owners of 610 structures.

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.

Also in the April 12 press briefing, Marcelino Escalada, Jr., National Housing Authority General Manager, said the number of structures demolished had reached 27, “largely in Sector 5” but the number is increasing daily.

“Demolition is the easier part. The most important part is UXO clearing as well as the detection. So once we are able to detect then recover and dispose of it eventually, then the easier would be the demolition.” On the average, he said around 10 structures are demolished per day.

Escalada also said that out of the total number of Ground Zero structures, 40% of these would not be demolished based on the assessment and evaluation by the Inter-Agency Committee on Debris Clearing (IACDC). The committee is composed of representatives from the City Engineers’ Office, NHA, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Health and Bureau of Fire Protection.

He said 40% of buildings found to be structurally sound will be delisted. “Forty per cent will not be subjected to demolition. Only 60% will be subjected to demolition” with the consent of the owners, Escalada said.

But Escalada explained that owners of the 40% delisted from demolition can return only when their sectors are cleared. He cited as example structures in Sectors 7, 8 and 9 which may not require demolition but are located within the “high risk sectors.”

Mayor Majul Gandamra said the city government has issued “600 plus” demolition permits but including the pending applications, the number would be “800 plus.”

The House sub-committee was told last month that the city government had issued 610 demolition permits. (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)