Marawi rehabilitation is urgent issue for Bangsamoro gov’t – Murad

Sofia Tomacruz
Residents from Marawi City hope the ratification of the Bangsamoro law will help speed up the rebuilding of the war-ravaged city

MARAWI'S PLIGHT. A woman and child living in Sarmanok tent wait for their transfer to Bogabong relocation site also in Marawi City. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City will be among the top priorities of the Bangsamoro government as it leads the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). 

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Murad Ebrahim said last Tuesday, January 22, there was a need to address the reconstruction of Marawi considering many residents have not been able to return home, nearly two years since war broke out.  

“We see that there is an urgency in really addressing the rehabilitation and rebuilding of Marawi,” Murad said during a Rappler Talk interview in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat.

“We found out that people in Marawi especially the IDPs [internally displaced persons] are very frustrated with their situation. They are still in the evacuation centers and there has been no movement in the rehabilitation,” he added. 

The reconstruction of Marawi City has been plagued by delays since the war was declared officially over on October 2017. 

Part of the delays were due to prolonged negotiations for a joint venture agreement between companies to undertake the complete rehabilitation of ground zero. However, this eventually did not push through.

Now, 3 Philippine firms have been tapped to clear debris in the city’s “most affected area,” though they have yet to be issued a notice to proceed. (READ: 2 Christmases later, Marawi hostages wait in vain for Duterte’s promises)

Bangsamoro Transition Authority involvement

But for the the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to be involved in Marawi City’s rehabiltiation, it will have to negotiate a way to participate.

Reconstruction is currently under the national government due to an administrative order signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, which created the Task Force Bangon Marawi. This set up has made it difficult for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to help Marawi residents significantly. 

With the Bangsamoro Law’s ratification, though, it is hoped that broader powers promised in the BOL would change this. (READ: Future Bangsamoro gov’t urged to give Marawi a special focus) 

“Although we are not involved in the Task Force Bangon Marawi… maybe we can try to negotiate and talk with the national government, especially the President, that we will because people also in Marawi are expecting that the BOL will be active in this rehabilitation program for them,” Murad said. 

“At the least is our participation in the rehabilitation and also the immediate implementation of the rehabilitation program,” he  added.

In particular, Murad said the Bangsamoro government would seek dialogue with the national government to ensure the input of residents in preserving Marawi culture will be heard and incorporated into rehabilitation plans. 

“We have to dialogue on this and see how we can make it sure that the desire of the people and the plan of the task force will really be synchronized,” Murad said

URGENT CHALLENGE. MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim talks about the priorities of the Bangsamoro interim government in an interview with Rappler on January 22, 2019. Rappler screenshot

High stakes 

The stakes for progress and security are high in Marawi City. Many residents had supported the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) as they believed it would aid in the the rebuilding of their city.  

Many also hoped the BOL’s ratification would mean better chances of returning to their homes sooner. 

During the Bangsamoro plebiscite, residents from Lanao del Sur – where Marawi City is located – overwhelmingly voted in favor of the BOL’s ratification. The MILF also has a strong presence in the province, which they banked on to secure a “yes” win.  

Murad acknowledged this much as he said Marawi residents expected the BOL would mean the interim government of the BTA would take a more active role in the implementation of the city’s rehabilitation program.  

Failure to move forward in the the rebuilding of the war-torn city could also lead to opportunities for extremist groups to recruit frustrated youth to their cause. (VISUALS: Power brokers in the Bangsamoro region – 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.