Marawi: Failure, delay, confusion
Just how long will the displaced residents of Marawi City have to suffer neglect for a conflict caused by the failed intelligence work of the military and this administration?
Two years after government forces routed the IS-affiliated Maute group that laid siege on Marawi starting May 2017, the city’s rehabilitation remains a pipe dream for some 70,000 evacuees still languishing in makeshift shelters.
The five-month battle against the terrorists left more than 800 militants and 162 soldiers dead, displaced some 200,000 Marawi residents, and transformed a once vibrant center of commerce into a war-torn ghost town.
But despite the creation of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) in the aftermath of the war, the hearing last week of the House of Representatives subcommittee on Marawi rehabilitation revealed the “failure, insufficiency and slow implementation of specific programs, projects and activities” meant to make the city habitable again, as Khalid Ansano, Marawi resident and member of the Marawi development assistance team, put it.
Worse, P4.4 billion out of the total P10 billion earmarked for Marawi’s rehabilitation in the 2018 national budget has yet to be released by the Department of Budget and Management. The fund expires by yearend, and new appropriation would further delay the Islamic city’s recovery.
What has particularly riled the survivors is that, two years on, they are still being prevented from an “immediate and dignified return to their homes,” said Ansano — ostensibly because of unexploded bombs buried all over the 250-hectare Ground Zero composed of 24 barangays.
And yet, despite the ban against residents, “why are visitors (allowed) to enter the area?” indigenous leader Maulana “Abu Mujahid” Mamutuk asked government representatives at the House hearing.
The hearing also uncovered repeated government delays in housing displaced residents, according to the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch (MRCW), which has been monitoring the city’s rehabilitation since 2018. The delays have prompted claims of discrimination from aggrieved residents whose call for compensation for lives put on indefinite hold has so far been ignored.
The seeming betrayal rankles, and so does the government’s lack of transparency on its plans for Marawi, the timetable for the evacuees’ eventual return, the resources available for rebuilding, and the outputs to be expected.
In a press briefing last Thursday, the MRCW called out TFBM and other government agencies for their lackadaisical work so far. Agencies present at the House hearing, for instance, were a picture of confusion as they failed to provide accurate updates on the implementation of their programs.
Lamented Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman: “We face our constituents as representatives and we want to inform them accurately (of what you’re doing)… (But) if agencies like you that implement the programs are not aware of it, what can you expect from us lawmakers?”
TFBM insists that it has made some progress, such as trimming the number of internally displaced persons from 76,284 to 11,949 as of September 2018, and putting up more evacuation centers from 23 to 67 and transitional shelters of 1,522 units, with another 1,500 to be completed.
These efforts, however, are simply not enough, according to Marawi’s dispossessed. Why are they not consulted and included in the planning, the timetable, the use of resources, the choice of contractors or even the design of their new homes that would reflect their culture and consider the particular needs of their Muslim community?
Take that December 2021 deadline for the complete rehabilitation of Marawi City that TFBM chair, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, had given. Waiting another two years would mean an interminable, unconscionable period of dislocation for survivors who have been in exile for two years now, and who simply want to be allowed back to resume their interrupted lives.
Government agencies, too, must provide a clear accounting of the P5.52-billion fund that had been released for Marawi’s rehabilitation in 2017, and the P10 billion earmarked for the same purpose in 2018.
And whatever happened to the pledges of financial assistance from other countries — Australia’s P1 billion, the United States’ P730 million, Japan and Thailand’s P100 million each, the European Union’s P49 million, and China’s P70 million for the wounded soldiers and P15 million for the rehabilitation process? Who’s handling the funds? How are they being disbursed? Are they, at the very least, still intact?
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