By Asian Development Bank
MARAWI, PHILIPPINES — Somewhere in this war-torn city, buried under the debris and rubble of collapsed buildings, Aisha’s carefree childhood is gone forever.
When militants stormed into the once bustling city, they burned down the family home, forcing Aisha, her parents, and her seven siblings, including two infants, out into the unknown. Aisha — not her real name — spent fifth grade in Balindong, in north Mindanao. In September last year, she moved into a shelter in Sangonsongan and started sixth grade at a temporary school nearby. She likes to be around other kids, but life in the shelter has been challenging.
“At home, my old place, even if we did not have anything to eat, we were still happy. Here, it’s not so fun,” said Aisha, now 13, her dark-green scarf flowing down from her head. “We have nothing to do.”
More than 18 months after fighters linked to foreign jihadists seized Marawi in May 2017, Aisha is one of more than 73,000 displaced residents still dreaming of returning home. The Philippine government declared the city liberated after a five-month military campaign, including air strikes and house-to-house combat, that ended in October 2017, but the rebuilding effort has been delayed by security concerns such as unexploded bombs.
Today, the city center, known as “Ground Zero,” remains a ghost town of damaged buildings, abandoned homes with weeds growing indoors and outdoors, and crumbling walls with “ISIS” spray painted in red.
About 20% of the displaced population are identified as vulnerable, including the elderly, the disabled, and pregnant women, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. About 13% of the displaced residents are housed in temporary settlement sites, putting pressure on underfunded social services, such as schools and hospitals.
The government has estimated it will cost about $900 million to rehabilitate and rebuild Marawi, not including Ground Zero, which will be covered under another plan. The cleanup alone may last 18 months.
Last July, the government enacted the Bangsamoro Organic Law aimed at building peace, strengthening governance, and supporting development in Mindanao. An interagency group, the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), was set up in June 2017 to facilitate the recovery process and coordinate with development partners such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
REBUILDING INFRASTRUCTURE AND SOCIAL SERVICES
On Dec. 14, after working closely with the government and other stakeholders for more than a year, the ADB approved a financing package, including $400 million in loans and $8 million in grants, to assist the government in rehabilitating and rebuilding Marawi.
A $300- million loan will finance 449 programs, projects, and activities under the Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program, with the initiatives focused on local governance and peacebuilding, housing and settlement, business and livelihood, and social services.
An additional $100-million loan will support large-scale, climate-resilient infrastructure projects by the Department of Public Works and Highways, including the construction of about 25 kilometers of roads and 1,700 meters of bridges and viaducts in greater Marawi. Building designs will adhere to improved structural standards and seek to better accommodate children, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
The grant will assist the government in restoring water utilities in 19 barangays (villages) currently serviced by the Marawi City Water District, and help the city develop a comprehensive water supply, sewerage, and drainage plan.
It will also support the construction of two local health clinics, to be fully equipped with birthing facilities and sanitation provisions. To improve displaced residents’ access to primary care, three mobile health clinics, two ambulances, two patient transport vehicles, and one monitoring vehicle will be acquired to bring health services to areas where displaced residents have been relocated.
The ADB package will also support the government’s emergency employment program in Marawi and neighboring towns by providing cash-for-work assistance to about 4,000 people, and livelihood support to about 2,000 beneficiaries. In addition, it will help the government restore quality education by providing learning materials and furniture to schools, and training teachers to offer psycho-social support to children in Marawi, which is part of Lanao del Sur province. The province is the poorest in the country, with nearly three-fourths of its population living below the poverty line.
RESIDENTS HOPING TO RETURN TO MARAWI
Noraida, not her real name, can’t wait to move back to Marawi and get her old life back. Before the siege, the mother of two owned a grocery store. Her husband sold car accessories and houses. After the siege, the family moved to an evacuation center in Cagayan de Oro City, before transferring to the Sagonsongan shelter in February.
“Everything was ruined,” said Noraida, 38. “I hope to be back in Ground Zero with my family and parents, because we have been separated.”
ADB Vice-President Stephen Groff, who spoke with Noraida during a recent visit, said it was a “heart-wrenching experience” to visit the shelter and school.
“While they have a relatively comfortable and safe environment now, of course they long to be closer to their family, closer to their friends, and back in the same living arrangements they had for many, many years,” said Mr. Groff.
Mr. Groff, who met with local officials along with ADB Country Director for the Philippines Kelly Bird, Director for Transport and Communications for Southeast Asia Hiroaki Yamaguchi, and other ADB staff, said he was encouraged by the dedication of the government officials of the local governments of Marawi and Lanao del Sur and the central government.
Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra said he has been working closely with TFBM and other stakeholders to rebuild his city. “The government is doing its part to really address the needs of our people here in Marawi City,” he said. “With the support of institutions like ADB, I think we are positive that we can. Marawi City will rise up again.”
Aisha, the sixth-grader at the shelter school, still dreams big. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up, and she wants to practice only in a new Marawi City.