CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 22 September) – The reconstruction of war-torn Marawi City is “about 85 percent” completed almost four years after it was ruined in the five-month fighting between government troops and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group in 2017, Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chairperson Eduardo del Rosario said.
Speaking before the Senate Special Committee on Marawi Rehabilitation chaired by Senator Ronald de la Rosa on Tuesday, Del Rosario said they have completed the construction of five mosques, major road systems and facilities like barangay halls in the most affected area (MAA) in Marawi City.
Del Rosario said residents of Sectors 4 to 7 in the MAA “would be allowed to return and build their houses next month” in time for the fourth anniversary of Marawi’s liberation from the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group, which seized the city on May 23, 2017.
He said that residents of Sector 1 to 3 have already been allowed to return and construct their homes early this year.
Del Rosario said that at least 4,916 temporary shelters have been completed and occupied by 4,214 families displaced by the conflict and that 558 permanent shelters have been constructed out of the planned 2,706 houses.
He noted the government is on track to complete the rehabilitation of Marawi in December 2021.
For his part, Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra said they have already approved 1,000 of the 2,000 building permits that were filed by residents.
Gandamra said the delay in approval is caused by land ownership and the difficulty of applicants to meet some requirements.
He said they have required landowners to present documents that they gave their consent in case there are other applications on their property.
“Mostly, the applicants are siblings. The land was not legally divided by their parents,” Gandamra said.
The testimonies of Del Rosario and Gandamra before the senate committee drew flak from some Marawi civil society groups and leaders.
Former Rep. Faysah Dumarpa ( 1st district, Lanao del Sur) said that only 207 shelters and not 4,916 have been completed by TFBM.
Only five out of 25 barangay halls and five out of 37 mosques have been finished, she added.
“But all of that will not be used if the Marawi residents are not allowed to go back to their homes,” Dumarpa told the senate committee.
“What use will be the mosques (and) barangay halls if there are no people to use them,” Dumarpa said.
Anna Tarhata Basman, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim body tasked to govern the Bangsamoro government, said the non-return of Marawi residents to their ancestral homes inside the city has become “an emotional issue.”
Aside from returning to their homes, Basman, a lawyer, said the unresolved issues of the looting during the Marawi siege and the killings of Meranaws have “thinned out the patience of the residents.”
Another BTA member, Maisara Dandamun-Latiph, said she received complaints that the local government of Marawi City is allegedly asking “excessive property taxes.”
Latiph said it would be unfair to require landowners to pay the taxes considering they lost everything during the siege.
Mayor Gandamra denied this, saying the city council had passed a resolution in 2020 condoning the payment of taxes as a requirement for the application of building permits. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)