MARAWI City Remembered last week that day in 2017 when armed men of the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf bandits, and fighters of the Islamic State international extremist group took over the city to begin five months of urban warfare as government forces fought to retake the city.
The city was seized on May 23, 2017, by rebel forces led by Isnilon Hapilon, leader of Islamic State in Southeast Asia. For five months, they managed to hold off Philippine armed forces that fought block by block until the rebels yielded the city on October 23, 2017. Over 1,000 people died in the fighting and much of the city was destroyed, including the homes of many city residents.
Last week, as the nation remembered the start of the fighting in Marawi, some officials expressed concern that many of the victims in that siege continue to live in temporary shelters. “To this day, the city lies in ruins and its people’s lives are frozen in time. Many of its residents remain in temporary shelter communities,” Vice President Leni Robredo said.
Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Pena, in a statement posted by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said, “Ground Zero is still an image of destruction reminiscent of the early days of the siege. Thousands of residents who used to live in the main battle area have not returned to their homes to resume their lives. They continue to live in temporary shelters.”
The government actually has a plan for rebuilding Marawi and rehabilitating its residents, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. The National Housing Authority has programmed 4,866 transitional shelters and 2,911 have already been occupied as of January, 2020, he said. The balance of the planned housing units will be completed before year’s end.
Save the Children Philippines (SCP) has been providing emergency and recovery assistance to children and their families in the Marawi siege. SCP Chief Executive Officer stressed the need for the government to provide continuing education to children even in times of emergency.
The national government need not provide the funding for the entire city’s rehabilitation, as some quarters may expect. But it should take the lead in planning, stimulating, and coordinating efforts, including those of many international organizations seeking to help, so that the people can see an over-all rehabilitation program in operation.
The government must restore the city hall and other government buildings damaged during the siege. It must clear the residential areas of unexploded ordinance that keep the people from returning to their old homes. It must lead in drawing up a program covering education, peace and order, business operations, and the many other aspects of city life.
We must not have the same complaints of inaction when the next anniversary of the siege of Marawi comes around next year.