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Rebuilding Marawi: Rising from ground zero

/ 05:23 AM December 08, 2018

The people of Marawi City lost their homes, schools, mosques, churches and for some, even their lives, in the city they called home during the five-month fighting between Islamic State-inspired Maute groups and government troops that started in May 23 last year.

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By the time the President declared Marawi “liberated from terrorist influence” on Oct. 17 last year, a fifth of Marawi had already been reduced to rubble.

This was the most affected area, also dubbed ground zero, which was composed of 24 barangays out of the Islamic city’s total 96.

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At least 920 militants were killed, while 165 troops and 47 civilians died, according to the military.

Those who survived the war had to literally pick up the pieces left from the war, saving anything they could from the ruins.

On June 28, 2017, two months into the fighting, President Duterte created an interagency task force that would lead the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation program for Marawi City, a month after the start of the fighting between soldiers and IS-inspired terrorists.

Called the “Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM),” it is headed by housing czar Eduardo del Rosario.

The task force’s functions include deploying a quick response team, conducting a post-conflict needs assessment of Marawi, constructing temporary and/or permanent shelters for displaced persons and providing an environment conducive to the revival of business and livelihood activities.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) then formed Joint Task Group Ranao, composed of engineering battalions from the Army, Air Force and Navy. They were tasked to clear the city, especially the main battle area, to ensure that there are no explosives or booby traps left.

As of January, government officials estimated total damage at P11.61 billion, while total losses stood at P6.6 billion.

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Rehab starts

Groundbreaking rites for Marawi City’s rebuilding finally pushed through on Oct. 30, after being postponed at least five times.

The ceremony, which paved the way for the start of the rehabilitation, was held at what used to be Rizal Park inside the so-called ground zero of the war.

The start of reconstruction was originally set for June this year but it was moved to July after the Chinese-led Bagong Marawi Consortium, composed of five Chinese and four Filipino companies, was disqualified due to failure to comply with the financial, technical and legal requirements.

In July, Del Rosario said the groundbreaking would be held in August and that the government was in talks with Power China, which was next in line among the private developers that had bid for the project.

Other developers that also submitted unsolicited proposals were dominated by the Chinese—China Railways Group Limited, China Harbour Engineering Company—and the Malaysian firm Alloy MTD.

It was postponed again in September and on Oct. 17, the first anniversary of the retaking of Marawi from terrorists.

But the government has maintained its completion target for the city’s rehabilitation by 2021.

Rebuilding work

The rehabilitation will start with the clearing of debris in a 6-ha area of the main battle area by local company FinMat International Resources Inc. The operation is estimated to cost P75 million.

Aside from clearing debris, the rehabilitation program also called for road widening, installation of power and communication lines underground to be completed by the first quarter of 2020.

Construction of vertical structures such as schools, barangay and health centers, a convention center, a grand central market and a centralized sewerage treatment plant would follow.

It would reportedly cost up to P1 billion to build new mosques to replace at least 25 mosques destroyed during the war.

The latest estimated rehabilitation cost was pegged at at least P80 billion.

In a press briefing in April with the officials of the task force, Del Rosario outlined the minimum requirements for the development of Marawi City:

Debris management;

Site development plan;

Area of development shall cover 250 ha;

Concrete improvement and expansion of existing roads;

Both sides of Agus River and Lanao Lake to be developed into parks;

Provision for underground utilities such as water, power and telecommunications;

Vertical development must be in accordance with the National Building Code;

A centralized drainage system that will lead to a sewage treatment plant so that all the waste from the 24 barangays of the most affected area will be treated and cleaned when it flows to the Agus River or the Lanao Lake.

Marshall Plan

The Mindanao Development Authority, which is part of the TFBM, has crafted a P678-billion “Marshall Plan” that will provide a road map for the immediate rebuilding of Marawi City and nearby provinces.

But of the number, P630 billion, the biggest chunk of the budget, will cover long-term projects designed to spur growth in the war-ravaged area and neighboring provinces.

The long-term projects, which is planned to start in 2022, include the P30-billion Picong Industrial Estate Freeport and Philippine Haj Airport in Lanao del Sur province; the P20-billion Tawi-Tawi Special Economic Zone and Freeport; agricultural ecozones allocated with P5 billion; and the P400-billion Mindanao railway project, among others.

Marawi’s Marshall Plan, which was the product of a series of public consultations, also include the rehabilitation of trading centers, boat landings, housing areas, agribusiness support and postharvest facilities and the reconstruction of school buildings.

The name Marshall Plan came from the United States’ comprehensive program to provide economic assistance for the rebuilding of postwar Europe. It was named after Secretary of State George Marshall who proposed the plan in 1947.

Project funding

Funding for the reconstruction would reportedly come from government, private donors and official development assistance. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III had said that for the entire Marawi, including ground zero, the government must shell out P72.6 billion until 2022.

In the 2018 national budget, a P10-billion fund had been earmarked for Marawi’s rehabilitation. As of Oct. 10, P4.6 billion had already been released and P3.9 billion was in the process of being released, according to the government.

During a pledging session held in Davao City on Oct. 28, the following countries have committed P32.7 billion in concessional financing on top of P2.4 billion in grants for Marawi City: China, Japan, Spain, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Relief and humanitarian grant assistance, worth P6.9 billion, also came in earlier from the United Nations and its agencies, and from Australia, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

The United States has pledged a total of P3.2 billion of funding commitment under the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Marawi Response Project.

But some Marawi residents complained that they had been left out in the crafting of the rehabilitation plan.

Coming home

Ranao Multi-Stakeholders Movement (RMSM), a group of Maranao displaced from Marawi and their supporters, previously said that Del Rosario had been “insensitive to the culture and feelings of the Maranao people.”

Sultan Abdul Hamidula Atar, RMSM spokesperson, had said that the Maranao people were hurt when Del Rosario said they should already move their belongings out of the area to give way to the plan to flatten all structures, including the Grand Mosque.

The Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch (MRCW), another independent dialogue group, expressed its frustration that more than a year after its liberation from terrorists, Marawi “remains beneath the rubble of destruction and desolation.”

The group was also outraged by Del Rosario’s statement that evacuees would only be allowed to go home and build their houses in 2022.

The task force had allowed residents of 24 villages of the most affected area to visit their homes and retrieve their belongings. The visit, called “Kambisita,” ran from April 1 to May 10.

According to the latest Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) report in April, some 353,921 people or 77,170 families from Marawi City and nearby towns have been displaced due to the fighting.

In 2015, Marawi City alone had a population of 201,785. Some 65,256 residents were from the most affected area in the 24 barangays.

As of April, 27,770 families have returned to only 42 of the city’s total 96 barangays.

Only 136 of the planned 4,050 housing units for displaced residents had been built, former Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council secretary general Falconi Millar said in a hearing at the House of Representatives on Nov. 20.

Millar also said that of the planned 5,462 transitory shelters, only 1,522 units had been built.

According to Millar, the government had been facing difficulties in swiftly carrying out the rehabilitation due to the lack of legal land titles of many Marawi residents.

Sources: Inquirer archives, pcoo.gov.ph, officialgazette.gov.ph, dswd.gov.ph, ourdocuments.gov

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