Marawi still ‘rising from the ashes’

Published May 26, 2021, 12:46 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Four years after the bloody siege of Marawi City, the government has completed 60 percent of the rehabilitation of the city where the Islamic State-linked Maute group engaged Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troopers in a five-month long warfare that began on May 23, 2017.  This was the most recent assessment made by Task Force Bangon Marawi headed by the Secretary of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).

Aside from the killing of 1,000 terrorists and 250 government troopers and civilians and injuries to 1,400, there are approximately 1.1 million displaced residents, most of whom were relocated to temporary shelters after the cessation of hostilities.

Restoration of the heavily damaged road networks is a priority, so that reconstruction of destroyed homes could begin. Meantime, the DHSUD is urging the residents to secure building permits to facilitate the start of home rebuilding.

What is currently taking place is the third phase,  the “full blast rehabilitation” of public infrastructures inside the “Ground Zero,” or the most affected areas, which is expected to be completed by December 2021.

Among the major projects are: the construction of the Marawi maritime outpost; the rehabilitation of the Banggolo, Mapandi, and Pumping bridges; construction of a Peace Memorial Park, Marawi Museum, various schools, a central fire station, and a traffic command station. The government is also finishing the construction of road networks with solar lamps and underground utilities in destroyed villages, barangay complexes, and mosques.

For the first year after the hostilities ended, the focus was on an “early intervention program;” the second phase involved “debris management.” These two phases lasted for 11 and 15 months, respectively. Hence it has taken more than two years before the main task of reconstruction and rehabilitation could begin.

The Office of the President has assured that the current administration will ensure the completion of Marawi’s full rehabilitation.

Meantime, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has called on Maranaos to celebrate this year’s “Week of Peace” in the Islamic City beginning last May 24.  “Peace Starts With Us: Give, Work and Share” is the theme for this year’s celebration.

While the wounds of war will take time to heal, all men and women of goodwill must now resolve to live and work together in harmony.  While the physical reconstruction of damaged structures would take time, the tougher challenge is to rebuild goodwill and cooperation.

The breakdown of trust and respect for civil authorities was what allowed the forces of terrorism to unleash violence and trigger full-scale warfare.  It is hoped that the restoration of the Grand Mosque, the biggest house of worship in this Islamic City, will signal a return to civility, peace and harmony.  After all, Marawi is also a major educational center in Mindanao. It is the task of teachers, elders and leaders to work together so that their children and the younger generation may nurture hopes for a brighter future.