By Arjay L. Balinbin

PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. announced on Wednesday, Dec. 27, that the government was set to turn over on that day over 500 temporary shelters to displaced families in Marawi City.

“We targeted to transfer 500 units but instead of just 500, we are actually transferring 800,” Mr. Roque said in a televised press briefing in Marawi City before the scheduled turnover ceremony of the temporary shelters in Barangay Sagonsongan.

According to Mr. Roque, “this is only the first of the temporary housing units” that the government “will be transferring to the people of Marawi” after over two months since President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared the liberation of the city from the ISIS-inspired Maute group.

Kumpleto po ang mga pabahay na ito sa patubig at kuryente (These housing units come with electricity and water),” Mr. Roque also said.

Also present at the press briefing, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Chairperson Eduardo D. del Rosario said 250 of the said temporary shelters “will be occupied not later than Dec. 31” and “another 250 will be occupied not later than Jan. 7.”

Apart from the housing units, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said his department will also be “handing out starter kit certificates to beneficiaries that will include, among others, carpentry and electronic equipment, sewing machines, garment-making tools, mini rice mills, and hauling vehicles (‘bonggo’ drop side truck).”

Mayroon ding (there is also a) financing (program) para sa (for the) internally displaced persons,” Mr. Lopez added, noting the financial access offered to entrepreneurs through Small Business Corporation’s 0% interest scheme, a program specifically designed for the development of Marawi and the commitment made by construction firms or suppliers to ensure price stability of materials to be used for the rebuilding of the city.

Meanwhile, according to Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra, there are already over “90,000 individuals” who have returned to the city.

Mr. Roque assured that the turnover of the temporary shelters marks the beginning of Marawi City’s recovery, saying “Ngayong araw, Dec. 27, 2017, nagsimula nang bumangon ang Marawi dahil ito ang mga kauna-unahang housing shelters na ibibigay sa mga naging biktima ng digmaan dito sa Marawi.”

(Today, Dec. 27, 2017, Marawi City has begun to recover because this is the first batch of the temporary shelters that will be turned over to the victims of war here in Marawi.)

Also yesterday, the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government gathered stakeholders from the Bangsamoro community for a post-Marawi conflict peace dialogue to draft policies aimed at helping restore the war-torn city.

Around 80 participants mostly from the youth sector took part in the dialogue.

ARMM Vice-Governor Haroun Alrashid A. Lucma said in a statement: “(T)his is a very serious situation that they (the residents of Marawi) have, (and) terrorism is a phenomenon that is very destructive to humans, regardless of what religion we carry.”

Executive Director Diosita T. Andot of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for her part said: “Marawi City is not just the beautiful location by the lake that we remember. The city is its people, its culture and beliefs. (I)t is made of families and clans and individuals who had been hurt not just because they lost their belongings and loved ones but because their relations are torn apart, forced to live in places that are not their natural and comfortable habitat, and the future remains bleak to them.” — with Albert F. Arcilla