MANILA, Philippines – The groundbreaking for the rehabilitation of Marawi City’s ground zero set to take place on October 17 was once again moved, this time to the end of the month, because President Rodrigo Duterte will not be able to make it on that day.
“We cannot avoid delays. The groundbreaking will start at the end of the month,” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday, October 18.
Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) Secretary-General Falconi Millar said they are coordinating with the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) to pin down Duterte’s schedule.
“The date of the groundbreaking has not yet been finalized as we are still closely coordinating with the PMS for the availability of the President,” he told Rappler in a message.
The October 17 date was previously mentioned by TFBM Chairperson Eduardo del Rosario last October 12. He had said that the groundbreaking date could be moved if Duterte is not available on that day.
Asked why Duterte could not visit Marawi City on the first anniversary of its liberation from terrorists, Panelo said the President had other events to attend to.
“It conflicted with certain schedules that occurred yesterday or the other day,” said Panelo.
Duterte’s events on October 17 and 16 included the signing of an oil exploration deal with an Israeli firm, a meeting with Japanese Special Adviser for Foreign Affairs Katsuyuki Kawai, and dinner with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Council Sergeants Major.
But Panelo said Duterte’s absence from Marawi on October 17 does not mean the city’s rehabilitation is no longer a priority.
“His non-attendance does not mean he was not interested. In fact, he has been doing a lot of things for the rehabilitation of that place,” said the spokesman.
The Marawi groundbreaking has been moved at least 5 times. Originally set for June, it was moved to July, then August, then September, then October 17, before Malacañang announced the new end-of-October schedule.
Panelo said that while Duterte had been “exasperated” by the constant delays, the glitches were smoothened out such that the groundbreaking will take place before November.
“Yes he was exasperated, but then again that red tape is finished, things are about to start. It’s natural to have complications in negotiations,” said the spokesman in a mix of English and Filipino.
Can rehab start even before groundbreaking? Millar said initial rehabilitation works will already start even before the ceremonial groundbreaking with the President.
“Preliminary works may start even before the ceremonial groundbreaking,” Millar said.
Del Rosario is quoted in a Philippine News Agency article as saying this includes mobilization of equipment and personnel as well as initial debris clearing.
Millar also said the groundbreaking date does not completely depend on Duterte’s schedule.
“The date is not dependent upon PRRD’s (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s) availability. Once we get the green light from PMS, we will conduct the groundbreaking,” he said.
What does groundbreaking entail? The groundbreaking will mean the start of debris clearing for a “pilot” area of 6 hectares in Marawi City’s “most affected area” (MAA). (READ: Residents to gov’t planners: Build better Marawi for us)
The MAA is a 250-hectare ground zero composed of the 24 barangays that sustained the most damage from the 5-month siege in 2017. The area is also the city’s commercial hub. Marawi has a total of 96 barangays.
Philippine company FINMAT International Resources, Incorporated (FIRI) has been chosen to conduct the debris management as the first component of the Marawi ground zero rehabilitation scheme.
The contract for the debris clearing of the pilot area is worth P75 million, said Del Rosario.
Contractors can only begin construction of roads and buildings, like school facilities and government buildings, once the debris clearing operations are completed.
There are 320 classrooms, 24 barangay centers, a convention center, central market, school for living tradition, and a 4-story parking area, among others, still to be built.
Before the debris clearing in the pilot area, however, FINMAT will be screening the 6-hectare area for unexploded bombs.
Del Rosario has said that 80% of explosives have already been retrieved.
The government is conducting “negotiated procurement” with the Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) for a multibillion-peso deal for the other components of the Marawi MAA rehabilitation. – Rappler.com