KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 17 Nov) – The interim Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which governs the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), is pushing hard for the rehabilitation and recovery of Marawi City for it to rise from the ashes of war.
The Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) has been tasked to lead the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country’s lone Islamic city ruined by the siege staged by Islamic State-aligned militants in May 2017.
Member of Parliament Anna Tarhata Basman, vice chair of the BTA’s Special Committee on Marawi, however, clarified that the interim body is not calling for the abolition of TFBM.
Basman, a lawyer appointed by the government to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-led BTA, stressed the BTA, whose mandate ends in mid-2022, does not have the machinery of the TFBM, which is composed of 56 government agencies, as well as access to the billions of funds available to the task force.
On Monday, Basman presented during the virtual “Monitoring Marawi: Voices from Marawi,” which is part of the Reporting Mindanao series organized by the Mindanao Institute of Journalism, the 127-page report of the BTA’s Special Committee on Marawi, which was formed in September 2019.
Among the special committee’s key recommendations was for the BTA to lead the Marawi rehabilitation and recovery, which it further proposed must have a centralized mechanism through the creation of either the Marawi Rehabilitation and Recovery Coordinating Board or the Marawi Rehabilitation and Recovery Program Management Office.
Sought for clarification if the BTA is calling for the abolition of TFBM, she stressed that the BARMM government has also the mandate to respond to the needs of its constituents in Marawi.
“No, we’re not doing away with TFBM in our recommendation. In fact, we have repeatedly asked TFBM and they have verbalized their openness to a more collaborative working relationship when it comes to Marawi’s rehabilitation,” Basman said.
The TFBM has drawn the ire of the Marawi-based Moro Consensus Group (MCG) for the alleged slow pace and lack of consultation for the rehabilitation and reconstruction at ground zero, otherwise known as the most-affected areas (MAA).
MCG chairperson Drieza Lininding noted that three years after President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi liberated from the clutches of Islamic State-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, at least 100,000 residents remained displaced and yet to be compensated for their properties destroyed by the five-month war.
“There is nothing to commemorate, only pains and our sufferings that continue until today,” he said during the third anniversary of “Marawi’s liberation” last October.
Basman said the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which was ratified in January 2019 paving the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro region, “reserves the authority over the rehabilitation of Marawi to the TFBM.”
“That’s why we [BTA] focus our interventions and recommendations to the BARMM government on things that we can deliver even if we’re not given access to the MAA,” she said.
The creation of the Bangsamoro region is the key component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the final peace deal between the government and the MILF signed in 2014 after five decades of conflict that claimed at least 120,000 lives, including civilians.
Last October, the BARMM government allotted P500 million for its Marawi Rehabilitation Program, marked by the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of 150 units of permanent shelters for the residents displaced by the 2017 Marawi siege.
“Together with the entire Bangsamoro, we will help you rebuild. We will help you recover. We will help you ensure that, In shaa Allah, Marawi will rise again,” Ahod Ebrahim, BTA interim chief minister, said in a statement then.
Basman said the BARMM government’s interventions in Marawi include the provision of food relief assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the temporary shelters and community-managed evacuation centers in other parts of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.
She added that the Bangsamoro government has been working to improve the delivery of water supply and the construction of sanitation and hygiene facilities for those affected by the Marawi siege.
Basman stressed the need to improve access to electricity in the affected villages and the provision of business and livelihood opportunities to the IDPs for them to have better lives.
The Marawi siege displaced at least 350,000 civilians, killed 1,100 civilians, mostly Islamic militants, and left the core of the city in shambles.
At least P75 billion would be needed for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi, government data showed.
TFBM slated the completion of Marawi’s rehabilitation “in December 2021.” (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)