MANILA - Three years since the liberation of Marawi from terrorists, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday that the government "might take some time" before it could rebuild the southern city, the pace of which was criticized by some residents.
The rehabilitation of Marawi "is not that easy" because clearing it of bombs takes time and land titles "overlap", Duterte said in a televised public address.
"The problem is about Marawi community itself, hindi sa gobyerno (not with the government)… The money is there, do not worry and we will continue to spend until such time that Marawi is rebuilt to its former glory," said Duterte, who hails from Mindanao.
"It might take some time before we can really reach the ideal place that you’d call home," he added.
Most residents have yet to return to their homes and many have failed to receive government aid, the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, composed mostly of Maranaos and Muslim professionals, said over the weekend.
"Itong mga tao na nagrereklamo, sabi there is no liberation of Marawi yet. Look, government liberated Marawi not from the people of Marawi, we do not do that and we never did it. We liberated Marawi against the terrorist Maute, pati iyong (even the) ISIS," Duterte said.
(People who complain say there is no liberation of Marawi yet.)
"If you’re talking about liberation, tapos na iyan (that has been done) at the expense of blood on both sides," he added.
The government earlier said Marawi rehabilitation projects remain "on track" and were set to be completed by December 2021.
Thousands of houses were destroyed when government forces retook Marawi from the IS-inspired Maute Group from May 2017, displacing more than 350,000 people.
The war left nearly 1,000 militants dead, including Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was regarded as the emir of the IS in Southeast Asia, as well as Maute Group leaders Omar and Abdullah Maute. More than 160 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians also died.
The cost of damage was estimated at P11.5 billion, while economic loss was P6 billion.