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Marawi mayor asks for initial P92-B rehab fund

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra has asked the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) for an initial P92 billion to rehabilitate the city left in ruins after five months of battle with the terrorist Maute group.

The amount, he said, would be used not only for the city but for other areas in Lanao del Sur province.

Gandamra stressed the need to immediately restore basic utilities, such as water and electricity, to get Marawi back on its feet. Other utilities, he added, may take up to three years to become fully operational. 

Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano, who is also the TFBM executive director, said the Senate proposal to allocate P5 billion would only cover the expenses for early response and recovery but not actual rehabilitation. 

He stressed that his office has started gathering a post-conflict needs assessment report, including an actual damage assessment, from all government agencies to guide them in crafting a comprehensive rehabilitation plan.

Yano is hopeful that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would soon allow the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from at least nine outskirt barangays to return to their homes. At least 33 out of 96 barangays in Marawi are considered “ground zero” after getting heavily damaged from all the fighting.

His office has, so far, identified 78,466 displaced families. Of the number, 95 percent sheltered with their relatives or friends and only five percent stayed in evacuation centers. 

The task force and local government units, he added, are currently building an initial 1,175 transition shelters on a 14-hectare property in Barangay Sagonsongan.

The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council is targeting to complete at least 600 of these shelters before yearend as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) aims to complete site development by next month. Other buildings – like mosque, market, school, health center and police station – will also be constructed.

Yano said there was a suggestion to retain the ruins in “ground zero” so it could serve as a reminder to the present and future generations of the outcome of violent extremism. 

But Gandamra disagreed with the idea, saying they prefer to rebuild from there and expand westward. “My kababayans do not want to be reminded of what took place here, of what happened to us. So it would be better if we would just rebuild (ground zero),” he said.

Members of the Senate special committee on Marawi City plan to visit the place next month to ensure that the rehabilitation plan would be comprehensive and truly address the needs of residents.

Sen. Grace Poe said additional financial requirements for the rehabilitation should be included as items in the Unprogrammed Funds provision in the proposed P3.7-trillion national budget for 2018, pointing out that the initial P20 billion the government wanted to release would not be enough for all the needed works.

“The Marawi rehabilitation plan should be future-proof and include infrastructure for security against elements who would attempt to besiege the city anew,” Poe said.

Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV urged all stakeholders to work together to heal, rebuild and create prosperity in the city, while Sen. Nancy Binay renewed her call for the inclusion of indigenous peoples and internally displaced persons in drafting the rehabilitation plan.

“By listening to our brothers and sisters who have been directly affected by the clashes, we ensure that our efforts match their needs and that they are truly represented in deciding on matters that will shape the future of Marawi City,” Binay said.

Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña felt a mixture of happiness and sadness when Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced on Monday the termination of combat operations in the city.

“I am happy that the siege is over and people can go back to their respective places. The rehabilitation of the city can proceed at a dizzying pace hopefully. I am sad also because there is practically no house to go home to for the residents, including us at St. Mary’s Cathedral. It’s going to be traumatic for some to see their former homes uninhabitable,” said the prelate.

Foreign donors

China donated 47 brand new heavy equipment units worth P155 million and turned this over to the DPWH last Oct. 9.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said the donation – which includes eight units each of excavator, loader, dump truck and cement mixer; and five units each of compactor, tractor and bulldozer; and one container van – came with no strings attached.

He assured Filipinos that China is a friend and partner of the Philippines in its effort to rebuild and reconstruct the war-torn city. 

“China has given these equipment and other humanitarian assistance, and I would like to emphasize with no strings attached, no preconditions attached. It is an act of friendship, it is an act of a good neighbor, it is also an act of supporting President Duterte and his government not only in his fight against terrorism but also in the reconstruction of Marawi,” Zhao said.

The ambassador said he is pleased to learn that China is the first country to donate and deliver help for the rehabilitation efforts.

“We have a saying in China – when you do something good, do it timely. The equipment arrived at a time when construction of Marawi is about to begin. The donation is timely and they are going to be put to use immediately,” Zhao added.

He congratulated the Philippine government and the AFP for the victorious anti-terror campaign in Marawi.

“It was a tough fight in an urban environment. Your determination, bravery and gallantry, your combat capabilities – you have proved yet again terrorism can be defeated and will be defeated,” the ambassador said. – With Paolo Romero, Alexis Romero, Pia Lee-Brago

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