MANILA -- Displaced residents of Marawi City in certain areas of ground zero may start returning to their homes in July for repair works, as the debris clearing operations have been moving smoothly despite previous legal constraints, the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) said on Monday.
Task force chairperson, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, who also heads the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, discussed updates on the government's rehabilitation efforts in war-torn Marawi City ahead of its second anniversary, during the third episode of "The Virtual Presser".
Del Rosario said the return of residents will be conducted in phases, allowing two of the nine sectors in the most affected area every month, given that they have secured their repair permits from the city government.
"We can say that the debris management is going on smoothly and we are on target. In fact, starting July of the year -- July 30 -- we will start allowing the residents to go back in Sector 1. (Sectors) 2 and 3 will be in August, and the last will be (in) November, wherein Sectors 8 and 9 will be allowed to come in to repair their destroyed building," he said.
This is after the clearing of unexploded explosives and ordinances was stopped in November until February due to legal problems.
Nevertheless, del Rosario said debris management operations are now 90 percent complete.
He added that the displaced families from the most affected area may reside in their homes by the "early part of 2020" when water and electricity facilities would already be available.
Some 17,000 to 18,000 of the 44,000 displaced families are currently living in evacuation centers provided by the government, while others are staying with their relatives in nearby areas.
The government provided about 1,750 temporary shelters and it intends to complete 4,500 more by the end of the year.
It is also conducting land development for the construction of about 1,500 permanent units as donated by the San Miguel Foundation.
Moreover, the TFBM said it is confident that the government will complete repair of the most affected area by December 2021, despite the delays.
This also includes the construction of 24 infrastructure projects that will start in the third quarter of the year.
"The timeline is not adversely affected whatsoever. The government will complete the rehabilitation of the most affected area by December of 2021. We are confident in (the) December 2021 deadline. It is very attainable," del Rosario said.
Humanitarian aid, livelihood projects
Del Rosario said the government has spent about PHP15 billion in humanitarian assistance, on top of PHP6.5 billion sourced from multilateral partners and other non-government organizations.
This includes the trade department's business and livelihood intervention, and China's grants to build a sports complex, a public market, and the construction of roads and bridges.
So far, the government has secured PHP35-billion official development assistance from development partners of which, PHP30 billion are loans, and PHP5 billion are grants.
Moreover, del Rosario called on the local community around the besieged area not to support terrorists amid reports of Islamic State-inspired militants' growing influence in Mindanao.
"Aside from the infrastructure development in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, basically, in the whole of Mindanao, the government now is engaging the populace themselves. Telling them that we must support the government by not providing sanctuary, especially to foreign terrorists," he said.
"I was told during our engagement dialogue with Maranao residents, I was asked if the government is certain if we can assure them that a similar incident will happen again in the future. And I told them: it may, or may not happen. But it will not happen if the general populace will support the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police by providing information relevant in neutralizing the presence of the terrorists," he added.
The TFBM, in partnership with the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Office of the Global Media Affairs and the Philippine Information Agency, will hold a reporting tour in Marawi City on May 23-24, in time for the second anniversary of the Marawi siege.
"The day of the Marawi siege, we are having dinner with the Sultans of Marawi City, the Sultanate League, so that we can get and engage with the Sultans, who are the leaders in Marwi City. And, of course, your effort to bring the international media on the 23rd. About 40 media personalities will be going there to see for themselves the rehabilitation efforts of the government in Marawi City," del Rosario said.
"Task Force Bangon Marawi is committed to rehabilitating Marawi City to bring back (a) better Marawi, per instruction of our President Rodrigo Roa Duterte," he said.
The Virtual Presser, organized by the PCOO Office of the Global Media Affairs, is an interactive online video platform where journalists based abroad can ask top government officials of the Duterte administration questions on the nation's pressing issues relevant to the global conversation. (PCOO)