EDITORIAL - Remember Marawi
(The Philippine Star) - May 25, 2020 - 12:00am

Muslims celebrated Eid’l Fitr, marking the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast, from Saturday night until Sunday. The event coincided with the third anniversary of the start of the five-month siege of Marawi, which was launched by extremist Maute militants.

In September 2017, the military confirmed that Abdullah Maute had been killed in an airstrike in August. His brother Omar was shot dead together with Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon in the battle to liberate Marawi on Oct. 16. While the three leaders were neutralized, the siege that involved airstrikes and heavy artillery shelling as well as close-quarters combat flattened nearly the entire city.

When the smoke finally cleared and the damage to the city assessed, there was general agreement that rebuilding would be a tough undertaking. Even with low expectations, however, those displaced by the conflict have expressed disappointment over the pace of rehabilitation of Marawi.

Last March, less than two weeks before the government imposed a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic, Malacañang received complaints about the slow reconstruction effort. This prompted President Duterte to designate new housing chief Eduardo del Rosario as pointman for Task Force Bangon Marawi.

Del Rosario’s mission is not merely to provide decent housing for approximately 40,000 families displaced by the siege, but also to coordinate efforts to ensure the viability of the reconstructed areas. There are no more people housed in evacuation centers, but projects meant to help residents get back on their feet were delayed “by circuitous approval process in the bureaucracy,” according to a Malacañang statement.

That was before the pandemic. Now that much of the activities across the country have been paralyzed by the coronavirus crisis, what will happen to the Marawi reconstruction effort?

Extremism thrives in a crisis. If the reconstruction moves at snail’s pace, the biggest concern is that the militants inspired by the terrorist Islamic State will be able to rebuild their ranks faster than devastated Marawi.

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