MANILA (UPDATE) – A Bangsamoro official on Tuesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to say when the rehabilitation of Marawi City would be completed as the nation marked 3 years since the 5-month terrorist siege left the city in ruins.
Speaking to ANC’s “Matters of Fact,” Bangsamoro parliament member Zia Alonto Adiong said the patience of bombed-out families of the Islamic City was wearing thin.
“By saying that it would take more time, we would like to qualify as to how long would it take for us to wait furthermore," he said, adding thousands of displaced residents had been longing for a return to normalcy.
Restoring the war-torn city to its former glory as a cultural and economic hub in the south boils down to allocating budget specifically for rehabilitation, Adiong said.
“As far as waiting, we talk about Marawi being completely rehabilitated, we still have to know and see exactly whether the government would really push through and meeting the deadline that was set by them and not by us,” he added.
Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chairperson and Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, in a September interview with Teleradyo, said they were on track towards completing the rehabilitation of the Lanao del Sur capital in December 2021.
This, after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released some P3.57 billion for the reconstruction of the battle-scarred city.
The budget includes the construction of several infrastructure inside the most affected area such as madrasas, health centers and museums.
However, Adiong, an internally displaced person (IDP) himself, expressed disappointment that Congress has yet to approve a bill that would compensate the victims of the 2017 siege.
The Marawi Siege Compensation bill, which seeks to provide monetary reparation for the destruction of residential houses, commercial buildings, and other properties in Marawi City, as well as in affected areas in Lanao del Sur, has only hurdled the House Committee on Disaster Resilience in September.
"Because of what happened in the House leadership, we don’t exactly know what is the fate of this compensation bill right now,” he said, referring to the wrangling of lawmakers over the lower chamber's top post.
Three years after it was liberated from the hands of Islamic State-linked militants, Marawi City and its residents remain in limbo.
“As an IDP, it’s really disappointing. We’ve been waiting for 3 years now. A lot of opportunity was already put to waste,” Adiong said.
Due to an extensive bombing that flattened 24 villages in the city, an estimated 100,000 residents were forcibly displaced, he said.
Many were relocated to transitory shelters from tents they used to occupy while construction of permanent shelters is ongoing.
"They really want to go home. That's really the general sentiment," Adiong added.
Malacañang later belied claims made by a monitoring group that IDPs were not allowed to return home.
"There is no truth to the report of an alleged NGO that the IDPs have yet to return. They can return, they just need to get a permit for their safety," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters.
He made the remark after Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, composed mostly of Maranaos and Muslim professionals, criticized the government for the slow progress in its rehabilitation efforts.
"It has been 3 years since the government declared our city liberated, but there is no real liberation to speak of. Most of us have not been allowed to return to our homes and rebuild our lives," the group said in a statement Monday.
"There has been no compensation for the damage to our personal properties. Thousands of us remain in shelters and housing projects in dire conditions, with sanitation and the supply of basic utilities wanting."
Firefights between state troops and the Maute group dragged on for 5 months in the city in 2017, killing more than 1,000 people, mostly terrorists, and reducing the city to rubble.