CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 22 May) — Residents of Marawi City who were displaced by the five-month siege in 2017 and prevented from returning there are demanding anew that they be allowed to go back to the Main Affected Area (MAA) and rebuild their businesses and homes. The residents led by civil society groups will stage a march rally dubbed “Limang Taong Bakwit” around Marawi City to dramatize their plight on Monday, May 23, the fifth anniversary of the siege that destroyed the city’s commercial district. Drieza Liningding, chair of the Marawi-based Moro Consensus Group said the rallyists would march from Barangay Matampay and pass by Bangolo Bridge that serves as gateway to the MAA. “We will just pass by because the government does not want the residents to enter what used to be their homes,” Lininding said. He said police regularly dispersed rallies staged by residents and other internally displaced persons who wanted to march into the city. Five months of street fighting between government troops and pro-Islamic State militants led by the Maute brothers, combined with aerial bombardments by the military had left much of this once-picturesque lakeside city in ruins in 2017. Five years after the siege ended with the deaths of top militant leaders, sections of Marawi, the only Islamic City in the Philippines, remain uninhabitable. Task Force Bangon Marawi, the agency mainly in charge of the city’s rehabilitation, presented a new sports stadium, a convention center, newly reconstructed mosques and parks as part of the reconstruction efforts. Other government agencies like the National Housing Authority presented newly constructed permanent and temporary shelters located at the outskirts of the city for the residents displaced by the fighting. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in its May 2020 report said more than 120,000 residents live in these permanent and temporary shelters outside Marawi. “All these newly constructed government buildings and mosques are nothing without the residents returning to their homes. The residents did not ask for them,” Tirmizy Abdullah, national coordinator of the Interfaith Cooperation Forum said. Abdullah said the areas were government constructed the Sarimanok Sports Stadium and convention center was the former site of the bustling Padian market. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)
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