This October 23 marks the fourth year since the city of Marawi was liberated from the anarchic elements who sought to transform the locality into a wilaya or an “administrative division” of the ISIS caliphate. On that day, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana declared the liberation of the city, marking the end of armed hostilities and violence between government troops and IS-inspired groups and, above all, the start of the resumption of Marawi.
Although we have emerged victorious, there is no war without death, damage or destruction. The siege of Marawi claimed at least 1,200 lives, potential material and economic losses worth 17 billion pesos, and the displacement of more than 350,000 people.
What has since ensued is a widespread, multi-party effort to rebuild and rehabilitate the big city, through which the government has effectively funneled some 40 billion pesos. This is evidenced by completed infrastructure projects such as the 1.12 billion pesos Mapandi and Banggolo bridges, government facilities such as police and fire stations, maritime outposts, solid waste management buildings, the barangay complex with health centers and madrasas. There is also no slack in repairing and rebuilding damaged classrooms, public parks, including the restoration of vital utilities such as power substations and Abaca nurseries and warehouses. In addition, the private sector has reached out to build mosques funded by their donations.
Despite the progress made, more efforts are still needed to help Marawi residents return home permanently. An account from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism described the number of residents found with nothing but rubble upon their return to the city, with some even reporting that their property had been looted. While authorities have cleared unexploded ordnance since February 2020 and reconstruction efforts have been underway since, there are still barangays with no roads and no access to water and electricity.
So, one of the biggest challenges in recovering Marawi is how to enable its people not only to come back, but to start their lives anew. We recently sponsored a measure (SB 2420), written by Senators Zubiri, Dela Rosa, Tolentino, Go, Marcos, Pangilinan and Gordon, which aims to support residents of Marawi by providing tax-free compensation to any homeowner. housing, cultural or commercial structure in the worst affected areas of Marawi (MAA) and other affected areas (OAA) which was destroyed during the siege or demolished to make way for the Marawi Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program (MRRRP) ).
This measure also creates the Marawi Compensation Commission to receive, assess and process claims, and pay compensation. This council, which is an independent and quasi-judicial body, will be composed of nine members, at least three of whom should be members of the Philippine Bar, preferably Maranao lawyers with five years of practice, including a registered medical practitioner, an accountant, an educator and a licensed civil engineer.
In addition, the Council’s operating budget will come from the Contingency Fund for the current year in an amount not exceeding 50 million pesos per year and its Secretariat, which is responsible for providing technical assistance, will be staffed by staff. of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD). Applicants who have been granted one year by the Commission have been properly organized to submit their applications.
By adopting this measure and ensuring that the government compensates the victims of the siege of Marawi, we are taking a decisive step towards ensuring that the people of Marawi – and by extension the rest of the Bangsamoro region – will never need to beat their plowshares. in swords or guns.
In fact, there is already significant progress towards restarting Marawi and one of them is the completion of the rehabilitation of the Grand Mosque by the Bangon Marawi Task Force. The bill we are pursuing would reinforce the gains we have made and speed up the normalization of the war-torn city.
The siege of Marawi is certainly a very dark and bloody chapter in the realization of the autonomy and autonomy of our Bangsamoro brothers in Mindanao. But even the longest urban siege in Philippine history was unable to stop the enactment of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which opens an even brighter and more prosperous chapter not only for the BARMM region, but also for Mindanao, as well as the rest of the Philippines. The streets of Marawi may be empty today, but I hope that with the help of our measure, they will soon be filled with life, laughter and, most importantly, new hopes, dreams and aspirations.
Senator Sonny Angara has been in the public service for 17 years. He has drafted and sponsored over 200 laws. He is currently serving his second term in the Senate.
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