MANILA - A conflict in the schedule of President Rodrigo Duterte led to the postponement of what was supposed to be a symbolic groundbreaking meant to signal the start of rehabilitation efforts on ground zero in war-torn Marawi City.
Task Force Bangon Marawi Chairperson Eduardo del Rosario earlier said groundbreaking rites for the rehabilitation effort was set on Oct. 17, marking the first year since President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city’s liberation.
Del Rosario said the President’s presence in the groundbreaking is “very important.”
The groundbreaking, however, had to be moved to the end of the month, as the President did not go to Marawi City on Wednesday due to engagements at the Palace.
”It conflicted with the certain schedules that occurred yesterday,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing.
Duterte on Wednesday met with officials of Israeli firm Ratio Petroleum to sign an oil exploration deal, and the United Arab Emirates Chief of Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship Ali Mohammad Al Shamsi, who paid a courtesy call on the chief executive in Malacañang.
The President also met with Special Adviser for Foreign Affairs to the president of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan Katsuyuki Kawai.
He also led the oath-taking of newly appointed Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and graced the 103rd anniversary celebration of the Cooperative Movement in the Philippines in Malacañang.
The military on Wednesday held a ceremony to remember those who died during the five-month siege.
Panelo said while Duterte was not in Marawi during the first anniversary of its liberation, it “doesn’t mean that he was not interested.”
“In fact, he has been doing a lot of things for the rehabilitation of that place,” Panelo said.
Del Rosario said the groundbreaking will begin with debris clearing at a 6-hectare area “most affected” by the 5-month conflict.
Worth P75 million, the debris clearing operations will be carried out by a local firm.
The government had initially set groundbreaking rites for Marawi’s rehabilitation in June, but problems in the procurement process forced several postponements.
At least 1,100 people, mostly terrorists, were killed in the 5-month siege that erupted between state forces and Islamic State-inspired terrorists in May 2017.
The firefights left much of the once bustling urban and cultural center in ruins. The cost of its rehabilitation was pegged at a total cost of about P16 billion.