ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – A day after President Rodrigo Duterte announced the liberation of Marawi City from the influence of the Islamic State-linked Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf groups, residents are asking when they will be able to come home.
Provincial Crisis Committee Spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong said on Wednesday, October 18, the return of the residents to their homes is on top of the committee’s priorities, but there are mechanisms and protocols that need to be followed before this could happen in the “controlled” areas.
Controlled areas refer to the areas not inside the main battle zone and already cleared by the military and the police.
Returning residents will have to be screened before they can return to their homes.
“Is it safe? Is it conducive? Are the basic services present?” Adiong asked, enumerating considerations for a return home.
Teams of Post Conflict Needs assessors are already doing rounds in the cleared areas to determine the situation and what needs to be done moving forward.
Adiong said that though they want to expedite the return of civilians to their homes, the local government of Lanao del Sur will have to make sure that basic government functions in the barangay levels are back, along with water and power.
Adiong added that the mechanisms put in place for their return are for their own safety, pointing out that barangay officials will help in identifying bonafide residents in their respective barangays.
To date, 44% of Marawi City has no power, “These are the areas in the main battle area, at least 14 barangays,” Adiong said.
Adiong also said 34 barangays were heavily damaged by the conflict.
One of the water facilties of the city is inside the main battle area and no one has yet assessed the damage to the facility.
“We need to energize these barangays and ensure that there is adequate water supply before they can return. We don’t want them to complain when they enter,” Adiong said.
There will also be clustering of barangays and phases. The cleared areas will need to be cleaned and barangay officials will have to be the first to return to restore government functions.
“We will not disrupt our intentions to bring back normalcy in Marawi,” Adiong added.
Adiong also said they have already discussed with barangay officials during various workshops the processes for the return of the residents.
Adiong added the planning for the return of the residents had started long before, as the government wanted “to be one step ahead.”
A planned market will also be set up to allow businesses to give life back to the city.
Colonel Romeo Brawner, spokesperson of the miltiary’s Joint Task Group Ranao, said Tuesday, October 17, the rehabilitation of critical infrastructures will prioritize mosques, schools, hospitals and health facilities.
Brawner said that the military and the police will remain in Marawi to make sure that Marawi is safe for the residents and those who will come in to help in the rehabilitation.
The road home
Displaced residents like couple Tata de Leon and Ansari Macarambon and their children have been living in a makeshift tent in Saguiaran town, just 5 kilometers away from Marawi City.
Tata said she doesn’t know how to feel about the deaths of the two terrorist leaders, Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon.
“Happy that they are dead, but we are also sad because they are also Muslims,” Tata said.
Tata also wants to return to their home in Raya Madaya. “Even if we don’t have anything to return to, we just want to return,” she said.
Mascara Jabar Pauntil, a tricycle driver, is happy that the two are dead, but he also doesn’t know when they will be allowed to return to their home, “I just want to go back driving and earn a living, I have two children that I need to take care of,” Pauntil said.
“When are they going to let us go back home?” Lawa Abdulla, a single mother of 8 asked.
Lawa asked if the death of the two leaders would mean the end of martial law in Marawi and that the military would let them in.
“The general sentiments of the residents are for them to come back home to Marawi City,” Adiong said.
The displaced Maranaws will have to wait a little longer, especially those whose homes are in the main battle area. – Rappler.com