Marawi mayor appeals for more livelihood programs

Sofia Tomacruz
Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra says residents remain frustrated by delayed rehabilitation and reconstruction of the city over a year since the war ended

TEMPORARY. Marawi residents remain in temporary shelters in Barangay Sagonsongan in Marawi City. Photo by Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – Over a year since combat operations ended and Marawi City was declared liberated from terrorists, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra said what residents need most now are livelihood programs that would help them support themselves and their families.

In an interview on the sidelines of the opening of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Bahay Bulilit child center on Monday, October 22, Gandamra said more sustainable livelihood programs would help residents gain normalcy most needed after the war while reconstruction of the city has yet to take place. 

“We cannot just rely on the relief given by the national government or any other private sector for that matter. We want to be self sustaining, we want to get back to normalcy without necessarily waiting for the relief being given by the government or any sector,” he told Rappler.

Livelihood programs, usually facilitated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), help individuals to find employment or set up small business by providing them with seed money.

In a statement Tuesday, October 23, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRIC) Iligan City head Meher Khatcherian echoed this, saying livelihood opportunities were among urgent needs of affected families.

“They struggle every day to make ends meet with whatever help they can get, as uncertainty about their homecoming adds to their worries,” Khatcherian said.

According to the DSWD, over 64,000 families have returned to Marawi City as of August 2018.

Managing expectations: Despite the siege having ended more than a year ago, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the city has seen several delays in schedule.

Gandamra said this has left many residents frustrated, though he explained that lengthy processes were needed to ensure the proper developer would be chosen to rebuild the city. 

“There are some frustrations on the part of the constituents but we have to let them understand that in this undertaking, we have to go through some processes. For instance, the selection of the would be developers have to go through a through evaluation so that we can avoid dissipation of any public funds,” he said. (READ: How government has allocated funds for Marawi rehabilitation)

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 for President Rodrigo Duterte to be able to attend.

Gandamra likewise said he received word from the Task Force Bangon Marawi that groundbreaking was scheduled to take place October 31, 2018.

MARAWI DESTRUCTION. Rehabilitation and reconstruction of the city has been delayed several times. Rappler photo

What’s been happening so far? On the ground, the Marawi City mayor said operations to clear the city of unexploded ordinances were ongoing.

Meanwhile, assessments of the situation of displaced residents were also taking place while consultations and dialogue on damaged property in the city were ongoing. Gandamra said this was being done to determine the “means and bounds” of residents’ properties and to avoid conflict in claims among landowners. (READ: Messy land ownership in Marawi complicates rehabilitation)

The assessments, he said, were scheduled to finish by the end of December 2018.

Apart from this, the government has also been conducting “negotiated procurement” with the Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) after the joint venture agreement mode was ruled out. PowerChina is the second group vying for the contract to rehabilitate the MAA. The first group, China-led Bangon Marawi Consortium, was disqualified after failing to prove its financial capacity to undertake the project.

Ine-explain po namin sa kanila kung anong prosesong pinagdaanan. Hindi ho ganoong kadali yung pag rehabilitate ng isang siyudad, lalo na ho yung extent of damage that has been inflected doon sa aking siyudad,” he said.

(I explain the processes we need to go through. It’s not easy to rehabilitate a city, more so with the extent of damage that has been inflicted on my city.)

Despite the delays, Gandamra also reminded the public to closely watch rehabilitation activities to ensure relief was received by those who needed it most.

May mga intervention but what I’m telling my people is kailangan bantayan po natin…. Kailangan mapunta sa dapat mapuntahan,” he said.

(There are interventions but what I’m telling me people is we need to watch these…. It should go to those who need it.)

Government relief has been slow to reach affected residents.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that contracts for the supply of relief goods were awarded to companies with limited capacity to supply goods and located far from Marawi itself.

Gandamra also sought to remind the public that while more than a year has passed since the war ended, the entire Philippines, not just the Islamic city, was affected by the 5-month long siege.

He said the war highlighted the need for heightened awareness and “accountability” when monitoring extremist activity. (READ: ‘PH failed to detect signs that led to Marawi’ – expert)

Itong mga ganitong (activities), directly or indirectly tayo apektado, dapat makilalam po tayo dahil at the end of the day, itong pangyayari na ito ay hindi apektado lang ang Marawi City kung hindi ang buong bansa, and even the whole world,” he said. (READ: War vs pro-ISIS PH groups rages on a year after Marawi siege)

(We need to look out for these activities that affect us directly or indirectly because at the end of the day, these affect not just Marawi City but the whole country, and even the whole world.) – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.