MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the creation of an inter-agency task force that will focus on the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City and other affected areas
Under Administrative Order no. 3, dated June 28, 2017, Task Force Bangon Marawi will be headed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar.
Among the functions of Task Force Bangon Marawi is to develop and implement a comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery program based on a post-conflict assessment.
The task force is also ordered to have sub-committees focusing on reconstruction, housing, health and social welfare, business and livelihood, and peace and order.
The chairperson of the task force is directed to "consult with Muslim leaders in the rehabilitation of predominantly Muslim localities."
Task Force Bangon Marawi is also directed to submit monthly progress reports through the secretary of national defense, until the "objectives of the Task Force have been achieved."
Lorenzana, also the administrator of martial law in Mindanao, was tasked to head the task force which shall focus on rebuilding damaged homes and infrastructure in the city.
"Recovery and rehabilitation [will take time] because there are lots of buildings destroyed because of our aerial bombings and also because of the actions of the enemy blowing up buildings as well and burning houses," he said in a news briefing in Malacañang.
“With this document, we can now start stockpiling construction materials for the rehabilitation of Marawi."
Lorenzana said damage assessment will begin and displaced residents whose houses were not heavily damaged will be allowed to return home once the fighting in the city is over.
“One of the things that we would like to restore immediately are the stores so that when the residents go back then they have places to buy their provisions,” he said.
He said the creation of tent cities will also be prioritized to accommodate residents whose houses were reduced to rubbles because of the fighting.
The government unveiled this plan even as the Islamist militants, led by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups, remain holed up in the city, holding about 100 civilians who are reportedly being used as servants and sex slaves.
With reconstruction of damaged homes a major component of the rehabilitation plan, the task force designated as vice-chairperson Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.
Duterte has earmarked P20 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi which Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno will come from different sources, such as the budgets of departments and agencies directly involved in the rehabilitation program. The budget of slow-moving projects may also be reprogrammed to augment the rehabilitation funding.
Lorenzana said the Marawi rehabilitation is on top of the agenda of the Cabinet meeting on Monday, July 3. He said he will raise funding concerns with the President during the meeting.
“[My] first concern is actually the funding. Because as early as now, we would like to procure some --- some construction materials like lumber, cement, nails, ‘yung mga yero, to support the civilians who are going back in repairing their homes especially those in the outskirts,” he said.
He added, government will likely adopt the emergency mode of procurement in getting the materials needed for rebuilding Marawi.
Lorenzana, being the head of the task force, is mandated to ensure that the primary needs of the internally displaced persons, now running to about 400,000, are met.
The task force is divided into five sub-committees, namely reconstruction, housing, health and social welfare, business and livelihood, and peace and order.
“The chairperson may call upon and request the assistance of other government agencies, local government units, and the private sector, including non-governmental organizations and civic organizations, to assist in the rehabilitation of the City of Marawi and other affected areas,” the order reads.
The chairperson is also directed to consult with Muslim leaders in the rehabilitation of the predominantly Muslim localities.
Clashes erupted in the city on May 23 after government troops attempted to arrest senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who carries a $5 million bounty on his head being offered by the US government.
The Philippine government and military said while government troops failed to catch Hapilon, the operation thwarted a bigger attack by the terrorists. Lorenzana said, Hapilon remains holed up in the city, contrary to previous reports that he had slipped out.
Hapilon has been designated as the point person in Southeast Asia of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He and his men backed the Maute group, led by brothers Abdullah and Omar, in laying siege to Marawi City in a supposed bid to establish an ISIS province in Mindanao under a caliphate in the Southeast Asia.
At least 459 people - 336 suspected terrorists, 39 civilians, and 84 government troops - have died since the clashes erupted.
While government has put civilian death toll at 39, the military believes this could “increase significantly” as troops have yet to reach other parts of the city where some trapped civilians were feared to have been executed.
The clashes prompted President Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial law, citing the militants’ bid to establish an Islamic State province in Mindanao. Government, nonetheless, insists there was no failure of intelligence that led to the crisis, saying the military was able to preempt a much larger attack by the militants.
The emergence of groups pledging allegiance to the terror group has been considered as the biggest security problem to face the year-old Duterte administration.
The rise of pro-ISIS groups in the country has also raised alarm in Washington and the Philippines’ neighbors in the region, which fear that the notorious terror group was seeking to establish a new front in Asia amid its successive losses in Iraq and Syria.
While the military has expressed confidence that the crisis will be over soon, security experts worry that the Marawi attack was just part of a bigger plan of Islamic State in Southeast Asia.
- with a report from Dexter Ganibe, ABS-CBN News