Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) Secretary and Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) head Eduardo del Rosario on Tuesday, September 21, claimed that the government has completed 75% to 85% of the reconstruction of the bombed-out Marawi City, four years after it was destroyed in the five-month fighting between the military and ISIS-inspired Maute group.
Del Rosario told the Senate Special Committee on Marawi Rehabilitation chaired by Senator Ronald dela Rosa, that they have built five mosques, major road systems, and facilities, including barangay halls, in the area most affected by the 2017 fighting.
The Task Force Bangon Marawi head said residents of sectors 4 to 7 in the Most Affected Area (MAA) would be allowed to return and build their houses by October in time for the 4th anniversary of Marawi’s liberation from the ISIS-inspired Maute Group.
He said residents of sectors 1 to 3 have already been allowed to return and rebuild early this year.
Del Rosario said they had also completed the construction of some 4,916 temporary shelters, and that about 4,214 Marawi internally displaced persons (IDPs) have already occupied these houses.
He said 558 permanent shelters have been constructed out of the planned 2,706 houses. “All of these constructions will be completed by December 2021,” Del Rosario told the committee.
Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra said city hall has already approved 1,000 out of the 2,000 applications for building permits. The delay in approval, he added, is being caused by land ownership and the difficulty of applicants in meeting the requirements.
He said they have required landowners to present documents that they had given their consent in case there are other applications on their property. “Mostly the applicants are siblings since the pieces of land were not legally divided by their parents,” Gandamra said.
In its May 2020 report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said 120,000 Marawi residents were displaced and needed protection and support. The UNHCR report said COVID-19 also heightened the risk of the families and their communities because of limited access to hygiene facilities like water that is difficult to come by in the transitory shelters.
Not quite true
Del Rosario and Gandamra’s claims before the Senate committee, however, drew some flak from Marawi civil society groups and leaders.
Former representative Faysah Dumarpa of the 1st District of Lanao del Sur told the committee that Task Force Bangon Marawi has so far constructed only 207 shelters and not 4,916 as reported, five barangay halls out of 25, and only five mosques out of 37.
“But all of that will not be used if the Marawi residents are not allowed to go back to their homes,” Dumarpa told the Senate committee. “What use will be the mosques, barangay halls, if there are no people to use them?” Dumarpa asked rhetorically.
Moro Consensus Group (MCG) leader Drieza Lininding told the committee, “Real rehabilitation can only start when people have returned.”
Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) member Anna Tarhata Basman said the non-return of Marawi residents to their ancestral homes has become “an emotional issue.” Aside from not being able to return to their homes yet, Basman said, unresolved issues of the looting during the Marawi siege and the killings of Maranaos have thinned out the patience of the residents.
Another BTA parliament member Maisara Dandamun-Latiph said she received complaints that the local government of Marawi City has been asking for “excessive property taxes.” Latiph said it would be unfair to require landowners to pay the taxes given that they lost everything during the siege.
Mayor Gandamra, however, denied Latiph’s claim, saying the Marawi City Council even passed a measure in 2020 to condone the payment of taxes so that it would not be a requirement in the process of securing building permits. – Rappler.com
Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship