Gov’t appeals for patience in Marawi rehabilitation

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Temporary housing units for Marawi evacuees under construction in this December 2017 photo — PHILSTAR/BOY SANTOS

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

NATIONAL GOVERNMENT officials appealed for patience from local residents during the commemoration of the first anniversary of the Marawi City siege on Wednesday, May 23, saying there is “no magic formula” for the city’s rehabilitation and that it “cannot be done overnight.”

“Please be patient. There is no magic formula. [There is no] reconstruction that happens overnight,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza said during a press briefing by Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol.

Mr. Dureza stressed that the government is doing its best “to restore as much as possible what was destroyed.”

For his part, Assistant Secretary Felix Castro, Jr., TFBM field office manager, said they do not want to rush things and end up having a plan that the beneficiaries would not approve of.

According to Mr. Castro, the government targets to start the rehabilitation word “in the middle of June” this year if the “timeline” will be followed.

In an interview with CNN, TFBM Spokesperson Kristoffer James E. Purisima said the total cost of the “Marawi rehabilitation is estimated at P75 billion.”

”We need to identify areas for temporary and permanent housing… [and] repair of slightly damaged buildings [will] be done in short term,” he added.

Also during the briefing, Lanao del Sur 1st District Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said the local government understands the frustration of the residents over the slow-paced rehabilitation of the city.

”We do not question but rather we understand the frustration of the people,” he said.

On “LIBERATION” day meanwhile, President Rodrigo R. Duterte did not show up in Marawi for the commemoration event.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence T. Go, in a text message to Palace reporters, explained that the President would be present during the “liberation” day celebration.

Sa liberation ng Marawi kami pupunta, not sa start ng siege. Why honor(?),” Mr. Go wrote.

Mr. Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from terrorist influence” on Oct. 17 last year, the day when Maute Group leaders Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon were killed.

Military spokesman Colonel Edgard A. Arevalo explained that yesterday’s commemoration rite is in remembrance of the infamous siege.

“But we are celebrating the determination and perseverance of all who have been victims of the Maute-ISIS Group who continue with their strife to rebuild their lives through the help of government agencies and other benevolent groups and individuals,” Mr. Arevalo said.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) officer-in-charge (OIC) Eduardo M. Año also said, “What we want to celebrate actually is the liberation of the complete destruction of the enemy that led to the liberation of Marawi. That is October 17, but nevertheless it is very important to take note of this date because it would actually remind people from all walks of life, different agencies, and government departments that this kind of crisis should not have happened at all if everyone has been doing its share in our fight against terror.”

Meanwhile, various human rights groups called on the government to lift martial law in Mindanao, which was declared on May 23 last year and extended until the end of 2018.

“No one wants to have martial law. The Palace would like to assure the public that the moment the need for martial law [decreases], it will be lifted,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said when sought for comment. — with a report from Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz