The national government will spend more money until war-torn Marawi City is rebuilt to its former glory, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday night.
In his weekly Talk to the Nation, Duterte assured the public that the government has enough funds and is willing to look for more if necessary to rehabilitate Marawi City.
“The money is there, do not worry. And we will continue to spend until such time that Marawi is rebuilt to its former glory,” he said.
He, however, said that it might take “some time” before the city can be liveable again.
“You know it’s not easy to do that. It might take some time before we can really reach the ideal place that you’d call home,” he said. “We started it and we are at it already because the clearing of explosives ang matagal (takes long).”
He also refuted criticisms made by watchdog Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch that there is "no real liberation" three years after his declaration.
“Itong mga tao na nagrereklamo ang sabi (These people complaining, saying), there is no liberation of Marawi yet. Look, government liberated Marawi not from the people of Marawi. We never do that and we never did it. We liberated Marawi against the terrorist Maute pati yung (and also) ISIS,” he added.
He added that the government “never said it is occupied by anybody except by the government and the peace-loving Filipinos.”
“Of course, it is not freed of the activities of the terrorists, but if you’re talking about liberation, tapos na ‘yan (it’s done) at the expense of blood of both sides. Pero sa akin mas masakit (it’s more painful) because I’m the commander in chief, marami akong sundalong namatay (many of my soldiers died),” he added.
Duterte explained that nobody wanted to deal with widespread death and destruction after the Maute group laid siege on the city for five months, starting on May 23, 2017.
“We are doing our best. We did not ask for this fight, we had to destroy because it was the only way to put down the enemy,” he said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said Duterte wanted rehabilitation efforts for Marawi City “hastened.”
“Let’s just say that we are satisfied but the President of course would appreciate if it could be hastened,” he said in a Palace press briefing.
In the same briefing, Roque said that Marawi residents are allowed to return as long as they apply for a building repair permit, as he rejected claims by a non-government organization that the war-torn city's people have yet to find true liberation three years since the end of the 5-month terrorist siege.
"Wala pong katotohanan iyong report ng isang alleged NGO na hindi raw pinababalik ang mga IDPs (internally displaced people). Nakakabalik na sila, kailangan lang kumuha ng permit para naman kasi sa safety," he
(There is no truth to the report of an alleged NGO that the IDPs have yet to return. They can return, they just need to get a permit for their safety.)
The Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, said that most of the city’s residents have yet to return to their homes and many have failed to receive government aid over the weekend.
Roque said that some 2,000 Marawi residents have applied for building permits and about 800 are repairing their homes, said Roque.
"Hindi pa praktikal na payagan lahat ng residente na bumalik dahil wala pang tubig at ilaw, at wala pang matutuluyan. Magiging isang malaki at magulong evacuation center lang ang mangyayari," he said.
(It's not practical for all residents to be allowed to return. There is no water and power connection yet, no shelters. It will just be a big evacuation center.)
Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chairman and housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario said rehabilitation is on track and will meet the December 2021 deadline to finish rehabilitating the city.
Duterte declared Marawi City free from the terrorist Maute group on Oct. 17, 2017.
The 2017 siege prompted Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial rule until Dec. 31, 2019 to quell the terrorism in the southern part of the country.
Del Rosario, meanwhile, slammed the sustained negative criticism against the Marawi City rehabilitation.
The TFBM chairman expressed disappointment over the continued efforts by several quarters to criticize the government despite its unwavering commitment in rebuilding the only Islamic City in the country.
He said there are still a few individuals and groups whose main objective is to tarnish the government’s image using their claimed delay on Marawi rehabilitation and the lack of assistance to the affected Maranaws.
“This, despite our repeated declaration of commitment to complete the rehabilitation as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte,” he said.
“It’s alright with us as long as deep in our hearts, we know that we are doing what is right for the people of Marawi and we have the support of the Marawi City government and Maranaw traditional leaders in our efforts,” he added.
Right after the hostilities ended, the task force immediately focused on the early intervention to address hunger, lack of shelters, health services and livelihood assistance for affected families and education for students, he said.
Task Force Bangon Marawi and its 56 implementing agencies then proceeded to the debris management and bomb-clearing operations that took around two years to complete.
According to Del Rosario, the horizontal and vertical construction went full blast last July following the release of P3.56 billion budget in April and May.
He added that the community quarantine implemented last March triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the reconstruction.
“But we remain on track, we have the methodology in the rehabilitation and we are well within the time frame of completing all major infrastructures by December 2021,” he said.
Del Rosario said that the TFBM is committed to achieving its three main objectives in Marawi – make the rehabilitation a catalyst for growth and sustainable development, serve as a template for good governance and establish a peaceful environment, he said. With PNA