PCOO invites media to a “Marawi tour”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 October) – “Marawi tour.”

The Philippine Communications Operations Office (PCOO) sent out invitations to media outlets on October 9 inviting them to a “reporting tour” in Marawi City on October 16 – 17 2019, “in time for the second anniversary of the liberation of Marawi City.”

President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, 2017. Six days later, on October 23, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana terminated all combat activities in Marawi.

Two years after “liberation,” commercial activities in downtown Marawi are starting to bounce back, heavy traffic along the main streets is back, but residents of Ground Zero’s 24 villages have yet to return to their villages to rebuild or repair their homes. Thousands of evacuees – in the remaining evacuation centers and mostly in their relatives’ homes in Marawi, neighboring towns and cities, or in other parts of the country – have yet to return home.

Heavy duty backhoe excavators tear down buildings at the back of Grand Mosque in Marawi City on Wednesday, Sept 4, 2019. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

In a consultation/dialogue with evacuees in March this year and reiterated in a press conference in May, Housing Secretary and TFBM chair Eduardo del Rosario vowed Ground Zero residents would be able to return to their villages in phases and by sector, starting July.

On September 29, Del Rosario told MindaNews that “as previously announced … we are on time.”

According to del Rosario’s schedule, residents of Sector 1 should have been able to return by July, Sectors 2 and 3 by August, Sectors 4 and 5 by September, Sectors 6 and 7 by October and Sectors 8 and 9 by November.

Del Rosaio said the deadline for clearing of unexploded ordnance in Ground Zero will be “not later than 31 October” while clearing of the debris will be “not later than 30 November” this year, he said.

In March he vowed the clearing would be done by August 30.

On Sunday, October 13, del Rosario told MindaNews that he is confident they would meet the October 31 and November 30 deadline. “It still stands. Our people are working double time!” he said.

“Marawi tour” itinerary 

Drieza Lininding of the Moro Consensus Group reacted to the PCOO’s naming the media activity as a “Marawi tour.”

“The term used is insensitive to the plight of the more than 100,000 displaced in the Main Affected Area of Marawi,” he told MindaNews.

“Tour is sometimes defined as Journey for Pleasure, and I don’t understand what pleases their eye by touring Marawi especially Main Affected Area? What happened to Marawi and its people is a tragedy. There is nothing there that will please the eye,” he said.

He appealed to the media who will join the “tour” to “bear in mind that behind those rubble are more than 100,000 people struggling to survive and hoping someday they can return and rebuild whatever is left of what was once their home.”

The PCOO’s itinerary shows that on October 16, the “Marawi tour / Day activities” will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on October 17, “Marawi tour / Day activities” from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. followed by a press conference that will be graced by TFBM chair del Rosario at noon and “free time” before leaving Marawi mid-afternoon.


Attached to the PCOO invitation is the schedule of activities listed by the TFBM for “Kapananadem” or “Remembering the Liberation of Marawi City.”

MindaNews noted there have been several changes in the calendar that PCOO sent compared with the TFBM calendar that TFBM Field Manager, Assistant Secretary Felix Castro, sent MindaNews on Saturday afternoon. The TFBM calendar lists activities from October 15 to 17 under “Kapananadem” although not all of them are included in the media’s itinerary.

Lined up for October 15, Day 1 is “Kathagombalay” where architects will give assistance to Marawi residents whose houses have been demolished, Castro told MindaNews. “Kathagombalay” will be from October 15 to 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the City Hall compound.

On October 16, Day 2 (Day 1 for the media), there will be a Kawiyagan Livelihood Distribution by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) at City Hall compound from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Also happening simultaneously are the Ate Kuya Leadership Training initiated by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and National Housing Authority (NHA) at the Mindanao State University; tree planting at the diversion road in Sagonsongan organized by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and distribution of family packs by the Office of Civil Defense at Pindolonan in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur.

Also on the same day, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. are a Medical and Dental Mission by the Department of Health and the NHA at the tennis court at the Provincial Capitol), and the Kathagombalay Assistance of the NHA at the City Hall Compound from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Still on October 16, Radyo Pilipinas is hosting a Song for Peace competition (“Rinarinaw ko Kalilintad”) from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Social Hall of the Provincial Capitol.

From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on October 16 until October 29 (except weekends), there will be a Kawiyagan Trade Fair spearheaded by the Department of Trade and Industry, at the Provincial Capitol compound.

On Day 3 (Day 2 for the media) October 17, a four-kilometer peace run, dubbed “Kaphakaradiyaan,” has been scheduled from 6 a.m to 8 a.m. at Ground Zero or the Most Affected Area (MAA), initiated by the NHA and PSC Mindanao, and a “Heroes Ride for Peace” cycling event also within Ground Zero from 7 to 9 a.m., initiated by the OPAPP.

A wreath-laying ceremony is scheduled from 8 to 9 a.m. at the 103rd Brigade in Kampo Ranao, with Secretaries del Rosario and Carlito Galvez of the OPAPP, followed by a Peace Forum from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at MSU.

The schedule also shows a “Marawi Press Visit” on October 16 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. organized by the Philippine Information Agency and PCOO in Marawi City.

There is also a rice distribution scheduled from 9 a.m. to 12 noon in Barangay Buganga, spearheaded by DSWD and World Vision.

“Games for Kids” at the MSU, initiated by PSC, is scheduled on October 17, from 8 .a.m. to 4 p.m.

There is also a Digital Literacy Training by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) at MSU from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; a groundbreaking ceremony by UN Habitat and SHFC in Barangay West Dulay from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.; a “media press conference” (sic) from 11 a.m. to 12 (noon) at Sector 9 of Ground Zero with PIA/PCOO as lead agencies; a “cultural show” from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. organized by NHA/MSU also in Sector 9; a “concert” from 4 to 5 p.m. initiated by NHA; and a drone show initiated also by the NHA in Sector 9. (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)