MANILA — At least 70,000 people comprising 13,000 families or 19 barangays, who sought refuge in evacuation centers, are now back home in Marawi City, a month after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the place liberated from terrorists.
“Through the joint efforts of the national government, the Marawi City government, Lanao del Sur, the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), and the cooperation of civil society organizations, all stakeholders on the ground, and the affected community themselves, we are moving forward in rehabilitating Marawi and war-torn areas,” Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Director-General Harold Clavite said during the Bangon Marawi media briefing in Malacanang on Friday.
Clavite said the government expects more barangay residents to return, as the office of the mayor works closely with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in scheduling the residents’ return.
Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra told reporters a total of 24 barangays were “totally” stripped of their homes and livelihood.
“At ground zero, the 24 barangays are totally displaced, their economic well-being is totally affected, and we must focus on these people comprising around 110,000 households,” Gandamra said in Filipino.
Rebuilding the city
The Marawi mayor said at least PHP90 billion is needed to rehabilitate his war-ravaged city after enduring a five-month conflict between government forces and Islamic State-inspired terror groups.
“Based on our estimate, in our consolidated master plan submitted several weeks ago… initially, we arrived at the amount of PHP90 billion,” he said, when asked how much is needed.
Gandamra said the estimated amount covers rehabilitation of physical structures, restoration of the economy, creation of livelihood programs, and peacebuilding in the area.
In October, Senator Loren Legarda said the proposed 2018 national budget provides funding for the rehabilitation of Marawi City with PHP10 billion under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund.
The amount includes a PHP500-million subsidy for a loan facility for Marawi residents and PHP5 million under the Mindanao State University (MSU) for cultural mapping of the intangible and tangible heritage.
For the last quarter of 2017, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said PHP5 billion has been allotted to support the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the construction of temporary housing, clearing, and rehabilitation of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
So far, Gandamra said, ongoing rehabilitation programs are the restoration of electricity, water facilities, and transportation system.
The improvement of debris disposal, revitalization of economic operation in Marawi City, and the construction of a public market are also ongoing, the mayor said.
“On the continuing preparation for the return of the other clusters, as part of the return plan of the Local Government Unit in Marawi City, there will be a continuing preparation for the return. And this Saturday, a brigade will commence for the barangays who have submitted their IDP development plan,” he said.
In terms of livelihood support, Gandamra said skills profiling was conducted at the evacuation centers, in partnership with the Department of Social and Welfare Development, to link locals to available emergency employment opportunities.
For those who have returned, combined help from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, and World Food Programme will soon start in Marawi’s 13 agricultural barangays, but the project will be initially done in five barangays.
Clavite said there is no information yet on the number of foreign governments that have pledged assistance to rebuilding Marawi. He, however, told PNA that reports from the support groups on finance and mobilization might be ready by Friday.
Brewing land issue
Meanwhile, Gandamra said the national and local governments are closely coordinating with each other to address land disputes in Marawi City while rehabilitation programs are in progress.
In a meeting of Task Force Bangon Marawi composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Marawi’s local government unit, and other concerned agencies last Nov. 16, Gandamra said ways “to address or dispose (of) the issues on the military reservation” are being discussed by the sectors involved.
He noted that about 60 percent of 8,000 hectares of land in Marawi are covered by military reservation, and some locals fear being displaced again if the government takes over their land.
“To assuage the people, we have to tell them of the ongoing dialogues and discussions with different sectors involved in the land issue,” Gandamra added in Filipino, stressing that the government is aiming to resolve the issue soon before it escalates into a bigger problem.
“We do not want to create any problem out of these issues. Thus, our government should properly address this in such a manner that it will not be taken advantage of by some people, who would rise and use the issue against the government,” he added.