Rehabilitating Marawi City, a promise yet to be fulfilled?

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) — Four years since the war, government officials are saying that the reconstruction of Marawi City is on track, with full rehabilitation seen within the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, which ends next year.

“Overall, the rehabilitation effort in Marawi City is now 65% complete. So, we are very much on track to finish all the ongoing infrastructure projects by December and complete the massive rehabilitation within the term of our President,” Task Force Bangon Marawi chairman Eduardo del Rosario said in an interview.

He noted that after the first and second phases of the program, which involve the distribution of assistance, debris management, construction of vertical and horizontal infrastructures (third phase) went full blast in July 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Del Rosario, 4,166 of the 5,866 transitory shelters are now occupied by internally displaced families in barangays within Marawi. Moreover, 2,857 permanent shelters are being constructed in coordination with the Social Housing Finance Corporation and the National Housing Authority, and are eyed for families from the Most Affected Area (MAA), especially those previously living in danger areas and those affected by the government’s other infrastructure programs.

Recently, housing units were likewise awarded to beneficiaries. More are slated to be given to residents in the coming weeks, he noted.

Del Rosario also said that rehabilitation and improvement of vital roads have been completed. The Mual Lumbaca Ingud-Ranaranao Road in Maul, Maranto, Lanao del Sur was finished in March 2021. The 19-kilometer Marawi transcentral roads were also completed this year, while the construction of the 2-lane PCCP Pantar-Marawi City Road is now 95% accomplished.

As for electricity and water, he said installation and activation in sectors 1 and 2 of the MAA were completed last year, while the process for the other sectors is ongoing.

Other projects being prioritized are the reconstruction and repair of mosques, construction of key public facilities, the Peace Memorial Park, Marawi Museum, and school buildings, among others, all of which are inside the MAA.

“The rehabilitation of the country’s only Islamic city remains on track and we are confident that most, if not all, of the ongoing projects, will be finished by either December of this year or well within the term of the current administration,” Del Rosario reiterated.

“We commit to deliver the promise of our President that he will see to it that ‘Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again’…. Let me reiterate also our vision to make the Marawi rehabilitation as a catalyst for growth and sustainable development, a template of good governance, and a model for a peaceful environment,” he added.

Rehabilitation through the eyes of displaced residents, civil societies

But some Maranaos are not happy with the rehabilitation efforts. Despite such claims of officials tasked to rebuild the war-stricken city, these Maranaos are saying that work is slow. They are also disgruntled about a few issues in the implementation of the program.

“Hindi totoo na masaya ang mga IDP [internally displaced person]. Ang katotohanan po ay nahihirapan kami. Hindi pa nakababawi iyong 127,000 families na naghihirap because of the siege,” said Hamidullah Atar, a Sultan of Marawi who is one of the displaced residents.

[Translation: It is not true that the IDPs are happy. The truth is we are suffering. The 127,000 families affected by the siege are suffering and have not recovered.]

He said many families living in transitional shelters are not given adequate basic services like electricity and water. He adds that shelters are located in isolated places, far from economic activity.

“If I rate the Task Force Bangon Marawi…. I would say 2, or 2.5 out of 10… that’s how the task force performed in the rehabilitation,” Atar said.

Contrary to Del Rosario’s claim that regular consultations were held with various civil society groups, Amenodin Cali chair of the Kalimudan sa Ranao Foundation and Professor Tirmizy Abdullah from the Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao- Mindanao State University, both lament that government failed at consulting with stakeholders before implementing programs.

According to Del Rosario, they were also tapped as third-party monitors to assess the rehabilitation process. They also take part in monthly briefing updates and are allowed to conduct their own rehabilitation, he added.

However, Cali decries that authorities “are building a city not for us.” “They are pleasing the outsiders… but hindi kami nagre-resonate sa gusto nila (our needs do not resonate with what they want),” he added.

“TFBM is incompetent… an imposed plan I’m sure will not work and that is what is happening on the ground… IDPs are entirely wala sila sa lahat ng (not in the) process ng (of) rehabilitation... Wala sila sa (They are not in the) decision-making,” Abdullah emphasized.

As for Drieza Lininding, the head of the Moro Consensus Group, he said the authorities made the Marawi rehabilitation a “milking cow.” He said the slow development of works for the city is greatly influenced by corruption as reflected on what projects are being implemented and being prioritized.

Keeping the Maranao people’s culture and identity

For Abdullah, the impact of the war and the current state of rehabilitation go beyond the issue of rebuilding infrastructure. He noted that the displacement of the Maranao people will continue to have a great effect on their culture and identity.

Kung hindi kami makababalik sa Marawi eh di sino kami?” he asked.

[Translation: If we will not be able to return to Marawi then who are we? This has impact on our identity, on our culture.]

“What is the connection of building these large-scale government infrastructures… sa suffering ng mga (to the sufferings of the) IDPs? Nawawala sa equation ang mga IDPs (The IDPs are being removed from the equation),” Abdullah added.

He emphasized the need for the government to listen to the woes of the people on the ground, those who really know what should be done in the city, their home. Moreover, he noted that rehabilitation should be IDP-centered, should consider their faith, culture, identity, and history, which is not being done by the task force.

“We don’t need large-scale infrastructure… we survived for centuries; history testifies na nag-survive ang mga Maranao people (that the Maranao people have survived) without big infrastructures. Simple lang iyong gusto namin, makauwi kami (We simply want to go home.),” he said.

In another interview, Samira Gutoc chair of Ako Bakwit also said that the government is so focused on reconstructing the city that it may have forgotten to address the social and psychological needs of the residents. The government seems to have forgotten to consider the effects of the war on the mental health of city’s residents and merely focused on the physical recovery of the city, she noted.

Accountability, healing demanded

With the last State of the Nation Address forthcoming and the impending end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, groups and stakeholders who are also members of the Marawi Advocacy Accompaniment, a network of Maranao leaders and civil society organizations, expressed what they hope from the country's top chief executive.

Cali said he hopes that the president will fulfill his promise to rebuild Marawi, while Lininding said he hopes Duterte “will finally” admit his mistakes in the rehabilitation and apologize for it.

For Abdullah, he said he is hoping that mistakes committed in the program will be corrected even if this would mean that the whole process will not be completed during current administration’s term.

“Kahit lumagpas at least tama ang ginagawa (Even if this will mean going beyond the timeline at least what they are doing is right),” he said.

The call for a safe and dignified return does not only mean compensation, but also accountability, Atar said.

Itong accountability nangunguna dito noon pa iyong call namin sa (First, in accountability, we call for an) independent investigation of what really happened in Marawi because until now the government is talking about healing, reconciliation, rehabilitation pero sa loob ng puso namin hindi kami makaka-heal (but in our hearts we cannot heal),” he pointed out. “There is no healing for us without knowing the truth, without knowing why the Marawi Siege happened.”