MARAWI CITY. (MindaNews / 18 October) – “Ground Zero,” the former main battleground between government forces and the Islamic State-linked extremist groups during the five-month siege in 2017 has become a beehive of construction activities, with only 14 months left to the promised completion of rehabilitation efforts by December 2021.
Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chief Eduardo del Rosario expressed confidence that the government reconstruction efforts can be completed by December 2021, six months before the term of President Duterte ends.
“We can complete all the public infrastructure by the end of December 2021,” Del Rosario told reporters as he toured the project sites on Saturday. “We can finish 80% percent of the construction of all public infrastructures in nine months” or by mid-July 202, he vowed.
Three years after President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence,” workers are busy pouring cement on Marawi’s main street, Quezon Avenue and constructing barangay halls. To mark the third anniversary on Saturday, October 17, groundbreaking rites were also held at the area of what used to be the Bato Ali Mosque, where the Islamic State-linked Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups held their hostages for months.
Del Rosario said five construction companies are now engaged in the reconstruction of Marawi’s road system.
He said these companies donated money and labor to rebuild 30 mosques destroyed in the five-months fighting.
“Bato (Ali) Mosque and Grand Mosque will be the first,” he said.
Construction of barangay halls in Marawi is ongoing and on schedule, he added.
“Ground Zero’ has 24 barangays spread across 250 hectares.
Del Rosario also reported that construction of the 1,500 permanent shelters, a project of the United Nations Human Settlements Program in Barangay Kilala, is ongoing.
Del Rosario said much of the funding for the construction of public buildings came from the 2020 budget for the Marawi rehabilitation amounting to 3.56 billion pesos.
He said out of the total approved budget, 1.91 billion was given to the National Housing Authority (NHA) for the continuation of temporary and permanent housing units while 155.7 million pesos was allocated for the Marawi Permanent Shelter Program of the Social Housing Finance Corporation.
Del Rosario said they have allowed Marawi residents to return to their homes provided they get their own building permits and can provide their own financing.
He said construction of the houses of residents destroyed in the fighting is awaiting the passage of the Marawi Compensation Package still pending in Congress.
The House Committee on Disaster Resilience chaired by Leyte 4th district Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez has approved the draft committee report on the still unnumbered substitute bill for the proposed “Marawi Compensation Act” and has endorsed this to the plenary.
The proposed measure seeks to provide monetary compensation for the loss or destruction of residential houses, commercial buildings, and other properties in Marawi City during the 2017 siege.
Residents, not buildings
Drieza Liningding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group said all the efforts made by TFBM will amount to nothing without the reconstruction of the houses of Marawi residents.
“Marawi is made up of its residents not public buildings,” Liningding said.
Liningding said government should have secured first the funding for the reconstruction of houses.
Bangsamoro Member of Parliament Zia Alonto Adiong said Del Rosario has to make sure that the money for the construction is already in the pipeline.
“It is a welcome development but much of this is pinned on the budget. If you do not have the money, you cannot continue,” Adiong said.
“Otherwise the reconstruction of Marawi will haunt the Duterte administration forever,” he added.
Liningding said the residents will continue to demand the reconstruction even if a new administration will come to power on June 30, 2022.
In a statement, the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch said “there is no real liberation to speak of. Most of us have not been allowed to return to our homes and rebuild our lives. There has been no compensation for the damages to our personal properties. Thousands of us remain in shelters and housing projects in dire conditions, with sanitation and the supply of basic utilities wanting.” (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)