Marawi locals form ‘conflict watch’ group for reconstruction program

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RESIDENTS AND other stakeholders formally launched on Wednesday, July 25, the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch (MRCW), an independent and neutral group that aims to engage all agencies involved in the rebuilding of war-torn Marawi City.

The MRCW members include families affected by the conflict, internally-displaced businesses, religious leaders, community leaders including women and the youth, academia, and non-government organization (NGO) representatives.

Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), the government arm leading the rehabilitation process, had previously announced that it will begin reconstruction of the city’s most affected area in late August.

In a statement released yesterday in time for the group’s launch, Sultan Nasser D. Sampaco, member of the MRCW and chairman of the Marawi Sultanate League, said they intend to harness the people’s “deep understanding of the local context and the web of formal and informal institutions that govern the city” to ensure that the rebuilding process is “people-centered, informed by best practices, and conflict-sensitive.”

Mr. Sampaco said “meaningful local participation will not only foster trust and help prevent violent conflict, it will also nuance and sharpen government responses to ensure positive outcomes.”

Nikki de la Rosa, country manager of peace-building organization International Alert Philippines, said the MRCW was born out of a series of dialogues that International Alert conducted with clan members, together with the World Bank and the TFBM in April and July.

“The clan consultations provided an opportunity for people to voice out their aspirations and anxieties about the reconstruction process and for their opinions to be heard, understood, and accepted. The people had clamored for this momentum of engagement to be sustained in a feedback loop among stakeholders,” Ms. De la Rosa said.

Among the issues raised are the possibility of revenge killings due to the loss of lives, properties, livelihoods and businesses; land-related conflict that may re-ignite during the period of reoccupation of the main-affected area; push back against government if the amount, allocation and release of reparation and compensation package and the provision of public works and basic services are deemed unjust; and violent extremist tapping into local grievances to expand recruitment.

Dr. Fedelinda Booc Tawagon, another MRCW member and president of Dansalan College, said the MRCW will regularly meet with concerned agencies to assess the economic, political, social, and cultural effects of the reconstruction process from awarding of the Joint Venture Agreement with the developer, the construction proper, return of the residents of the most affected area, and post-reconstruction.

Dansalan College, the only Christian school that operated in the Islamic City of Marawi, was burned by the Maute group and completely destroyed by government airstrikes during the five-month siege in 2017.

“It is an emotional time for all of us, seeing that our homes, businesses, schools, and communities, the result of sleepless nights, of passion and commitment, of industry and frugality, and of a lot of sweat, blood and tears, were reduced to rubble. But we are pledging our collective knowledge, expertise, deep experience, and fortitude in the cause of conflict-proofing the economic, social, cultural, and political transition during the Marawi reconstruction process, and rebuilding relationships of peoples,” Ms. Tawagon said.

International Alert Philippines’ Peace and Conflict Adviser for Asia Francisco Lara, Jr. said their role is to provide timely data and analysis to the MRCW to ensure evidence-based approaches and strategies.

The NGO will also link the MRCW with an experts action group composed of auditors, engineers, development and conflict specialists, among others, who will give input on issues and help the people decide on their recommendations.