Marawi rebuilding more than about housing | Inquirer Opinion
Business Matters

Marawi rebuilding more than about housing

Marawi City will erupt in violence if reconstruction and the permanent resettlement of thousands of displaced residents continue to be hampered by delays. It will come with raging fire, putting the nascent Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) under threat. A younger and more extremist generation of Filipino Muslims who grew up in the decades of war and conflict will take leadership among desperate and radicalized young Muslims. Recruitment among the Muslim youth will be easier as jihad becomes romanticized among them.

The Muslim secessionist struggle transformed from political struggle to radical extremism when Khadaffy Janjalani rose to create the Abu Sayyaf. Younger generations of fighters were radicalized. The Maute group that merged with the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon in the Battle for Marawi City is the effect of radicalization.

Globally connected, technologically savvy yet ruthless young terrorists will be difficult for any military organization to contend with. No one is safe.

To dismiss the capability of Filipinos to be suicide bombers is hubris and naiveté. Had the “juramentados” and “amoks” of the American occupation gained access to more lethal explosives than spears and kris, the Americans might have left Mindanao. The massacre at Bud Dajo was about a thousand people giving up their lives when pushed beyond the limits of despair.


On Rizal Day in 2000, international and local terrorists detonated five bombs in Metro Manila, paralyzing the nation. This came months after the capture of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Camp Abubakar in July 2000—a costly military victory and a strategic mistake in national security, setting back peace talks by two decades. It fragmented the MILF command leadership, resulting in the rise of lost commands such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Mautes. It drove local commanders of the rebel group into the arms of international terrorist groups Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaida and eventually the Islamic State—the tragic consequence of having an actor for a commander in chief treating national security as child’s play for public propaganda.

We cannot view the Marawi crisis in the same cavalier manner.

The continuing problem in Marawi is an error in problem identification. It is not a housing problem. The organization, allocation of resources and governance designed for reconstruction are inappropriate. The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council simply does not have the budget or the people to take on this task. The country’s past experience in the “Yolanda” reconstruction should have already made this clear.

Changing the approach from housing to national security brings the right organization and leadership with appropriate powers and authorities, sufficient resources to mobilize and the governance structure that will expedite the deployment of resources and people. Existing laws allow emergency procurements for this.


There is hope. The President must take a direct hand in leading this effort. He has able leaders with him, led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and BARMM interim chief minister Murad Ebrahim. An executive order can be issued giving special executive powers and mandating all government agencies to lend support. A special budget allocation for Marawi must be certified urgent by Congress. Involving well-meaning community leaders and civil society will promote transparency and community ownership of the project.

This approach brings urgency, power, gravitas, inclusion and resources all together in a proper governance structure to ensure success. This is the most opportune time to demonstrate the President’s vaunted political will for the greater good and for national stability. The time to act is now.


Arnel Paciano Casanova is country chief executive of Aecom, a global engineering firm, and was president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.

Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).

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TAGS: Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Marawi, Rizal Day

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