A new dawn for Marawi City

Published October 24, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Senator Sonny Angara


Senator Sonny Angara

This Oct. 23 marks the 4th year since Marawi City was freed from the lawless elements who sought to turn the locality into a wilayat or an “administrative division” of the ISIS caliphate. On that day, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana declared the city’s liberation marking the end of armed hostilities and violence between government troops and ISIS-inspired groups and, most importantly, the start of Marawi’s recovery.

While we emerged victorious, there is no such thing as a war without death, damage, or destruction. The Marawi Siege resulted in at least 1,200 fatalities, property and potential economic losses worth P17 billion, and the displacement of more than 350,000 individuals.

What has since ensued is a wide-spread, multi-stakeholder effort to rebuild and to rehabilitate the great city, through which the government has effectively funneled some P40 billion. This is evidenced by completed infrastructure projects such as the P1.12 billion Mapandi and Banggolo Bridges, government installations like police and fire stations, maritime outposts, solid waste management buildings, barangay complex with health centers and madrasahs. There is also no let-up in the repair and reconstruction of damaged classrooms, public parks, including the restoration of vital utilities such power substations and Abaca nurseries and warehouses. In addition, the private sector extended its hand in the construction of mosques funded through their donations.

Despite the gains achieved, more work is still required to help Marawi residents return home permanently. An account by the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism described how many residents found with nothing but rubble when they returned to the city, with some even reporting that their belongings had been looted. While the authorities have cleared unexploded ordinance since February 2020 and reconstruction efforts have since been underway, there are still some barangays without roads and access to water and electricity.

Thus, one of the greatest challenges in Marawi’s recovery is how to enable its people not just to come back, but also to restart their lives. We recently sponsored a measure (SB 2420), as authored by Senators Zubiri, Dela Rosa, Tolentino, Go, Marcos, Pangilinan, and Gordon, which seeks to prop up Marawi residents by providing tax-free compensation to any owner of a residential, cultural, or commercial structure within Marawi’s Most Affected Areas (MAA) and Other Affected Areas (OAA) that was destroyed during the siege or demolished to make way for the Marawi Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program (MRRRP).

This measure also creates the Marawi Compensation Board to receive, evaluate, and process claims, and to disburse compensation. This Board, which is an independent and quasi-judicial body, shall be composed of nine members — at least three of whom should be members of the Philippine Bar, preferably Maranao lawyers with five years of practice, including a licensed physician, a certified public accountant, an educator, and a licensed civil engineer.

Moreover, the board’s operating budget shall be sourced from the current year’s contingent fund amounting to no more than P50 million annually and its Secretariat, who is tasked to provide technical assistance, shall consist of personnel from the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD). Claimants are given a year from the time the board has been duly organized to file their claims.

By enacting this measure and by making it a policy for the government to compensate Marawi Siege victims, we are making a decisive step towards ensuring that the people of Marawi – and by extension the rest of the Bangsamoro region – will never need to beat their ploughshares back into swords or guns.

In fact, there are already significant strides towards restarting Marawi and one of them is the completion of the Grand Mosque’s rehabilitation by the Task Force Bangon Marawi. The bill that we are pursuing would further the gains we have achieved and hasten normalization of the war-torn city.

The Marawi Siege is admittedly a very dark and bloody chapter in the attainment of self-rule and autonomy of our Bangsamoro brethren in Mindanao. But even the longest urban siege in the history of the Philippines could not stop the enactment of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which opens an even brighter, more prosperous chapter not only for the BARMM region, but also for Mindanao, as well as the rest of the Philippines. Marawi’s streets may be empty today but hopefully with the help of our measure, it will soon be filled with life, laughter, and, most importantly, new hopes, dreams, and aspirations. 

Sen. Sonny Angara has been in public service for 17 years.  He has authored and sponsored more than 200 laws. He is currently serving his second term in the Senate.

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