By Lara Climaco | FilAm Star Correspondent
It will take years to restore Marawi to its former glory as a higher education hub and regional center before it was blown to smithereens by terrorism. A comprehensive masterplan presented to the inter-agency Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) pegs the re-construction cost of the historic city at a hefty PHP 90 billion. Only a fraction of this amount is available in the national coffers, although the government’s determination to find a lasting solution to the strife in Mindanao could turn up more money to address the devastation.
“The consolidated master plan that we submitted several weeks ago ay initially po ay merong, if- kung meron po akong authority na magbigay, ay initially meron ho tayong amount of PHP 90 billion. Kasama po ‘yung, of course the restoration of economic operations of Marawi City. Because as a result of this siege ‘no, almost 100 percent po ay totally collapsed ang aming economic operation. And, of course, in terms of peace building kasama rin po ‘yan. Hindi lang ho in terms of rehabilitating or re-constructing the physical structures of the damaged structures,” Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said at a press briefing hosted by Malacañang recently.
He also revealed that at least PHP 30 billion would be allocated for the re-construction next year, based on information that he said he received from TFBM. Earlier pronouncements made by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) indicated only PHP 10 billion available for the Marawi rehabilitation for 2018, after allocating an initial amount of PHP 5 billion this year. More money would be made available in 2019 for the multi-year re-development but the amount is yet to be determined, the DBM had disclosed in July.
A subsequent announcement last October 30 indicated that the Office of the President had approved the augmentation of the Fiscal Year 2017 National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund to PHP 14.5 billion. The DBM said the amount, sourced from savings of the Department of Public Works and Highways, was “geared towards providing sufficient funding for the rehabilitation of Marawi City in Lanao del Sur.”
According to Gandamra, ground zero in the devastation of Marawi involves 24 barangays, with some 10,000 affected households or about 50,000 people. Across 19 other barangays, more than 70,000 individuals or about 13,000 families have returned to their homes recently, the Marawi City Mayor said. This constitutes just 17 percent of the population evacuated from Marawi since the war erupted in May.
A post-conflict needs assessment has been completed in 49 barangays, which would be extended to the 47 other barangays comprising Marawi City.
“These pre-planning activities will lead into the establishment of the Marawi development plan expected to be up for review by March 2018. Though this, we aim to establish a safe, adaptive, disaster-resilient, and most importantly, peaceful communities,” Gandamra said.
Based on consultations with his constituents, the Marawi City Mayor said a re-construction of the war-torn area and an expansion of government centers are preferred over suggestions to preserve the currently devastated structures as a memorial and to relocate the city center.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is consolidating the rehabilitation plan for Marawi based on inputs from Marawi City and Lanao del Sur local governments, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) regional government. Alongside DBM and the Department of Finance, the agency is in charge of mobilizing resources for the Marawi rehabilitation.
Last November 23, the ARMM regional government announced that it would start rebuilding schools that were totally damaged in Marawi City, where 22 out of 69 schools have been destroyed. Initially, ARMM’s Department of Education will begin work on seven schools. Across Lanao del Sur, 54 other schools also need major repairs.
ARMM has also embarked on a roadshow to entice investors to participate in the restoration of Marawi. Aside from infrastructure development, priority investment areas include agriculture, banking and finance, inclusive business and BIMP-EAGA trading. ARMM’s Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) offers expedited processing and incentives to qualified investors.
In view of the need to rehabilitate and re-construct Marawi City, the ARMM regional government has pledged PHP 930 million worth of assistance to the city for next year. This amount is more than double the 2017 allocation for Marawi City.
Over the course of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila, several world leaders also pledged to help in the Marawi rehabilitation. Japan committed to donate 1.5 billion yen for the maritime safety and re-construction of the war-torn city, and sacks of rice for its displaced population. China and the United States pledged PHP 1.15 billion in grants and US$14.3 million for rehabilitation and humanitarian purposes, respectively. Australia also promised to provide A$1.5 million in additional relief goods. The city governments of Taguig and Davao have also donated PHP 5 million each to Marawi City, according to the TFBM.
By the end of this year, about 500 to 600 transitional houses are expected to be completed and turned over to families whose houses were destroyed or those who used to live in danger zones. A total of 1,170 transitional houses will be built at an 11.2-hectare site in Brgy. Sagonsongan, which is 4.4 kilometers away from Marawi City Hall. Construction target is around 100 to 200 housing units every month.
The current estimate is that about 6,400 families require housing. Permanent shelters are expected to be built once the Brgy. Sagonsongan transitional housing project is completed.
President Rodrigo Duterte has renewed calls for federalism as the lasting solution to the strife in Mindanao, which involves historic claims to land expropriated by the government.
In Marawi City, for instance, about 6,000 hectares is reserved for military use by virtue of a 1953 presidential proclamation. This military reservation constitutes almost 70 percent of Marawi’s land area.
Duterte has expressed willingness to concede Marawi proper to Muslim claimants, but noted he would build a new military camp good enough for one regiment or division within the vicinity of the greater Marawi area.
“There is no way that we can find peace forever if we do not give them back at least a part of their heritage. Sila yung nauna doon eh. So, you have to give back to the Muslims the heritage, the culture and land and all. Pag hindi yan naibigay, sasabihin ko na sa inyo, gugulo ang Mindanao,” the President said on November 21 at an event honoring fallen soldiers of the Marawi siege.