MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will lead the turn over on Wednesday afternoon of the first 500 housing units built in Barangay Sagonsongan, Marawi, for residents who fled the fighting between extremist gunmen and government forces from May to October that left the city in ruins.
Two months after Marawi’s liberation, some returning residents will finally be able to occupy 250 of the housing units before the New Year, and another 250 before January 7.
In a press conference in Marawi on Wednesday morning, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council chairman Eduardo del Rosario, who heads the government’s Bangon Marawi task force, explained that although these houses will have water and electricity, they still need to be connected to the “main lines,” hence the delay in occupancy.
A total of 1,170 “transitory” shelters will be built in Sagonsongan, with 551 already completed, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
Every 10 days or two weeks until the end of February, these housing units will be awarded to residents, Del Rosario said.
300 more housing units in the town of Matungao, Lanao del Norte will be transferred to residents — though it is unclear when — courtesy of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, according to Roque.
They will continue receiving food assistance from the government despite moving in, and within the first six months of occupancy, their electric bills will be shouldered by the government, Del Rosario said.
Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra explained that the first recipients of the homes were chosen through a technical working group which chose those deemed in dire need (matinding pangangailangan), such as those living in evacuation centers and renting from outside of Marawi.
Meanwhile, work to turn Marawi into a “modern city after the rehabilitation” will begin in April or May, according to Del Rosario, with a technical working group to select one among six unsolicited proposals from developers which he will name “maybe later.” These proposals are worth P38 billion to P86 billion.
Here are other updates on the rehabilitation of Marawi.
RETURN OF EVACUEES
More than 90,000 individuals have returned to Marawi, according to Gandamra.
Vital facilities such as electricity and water supply are being restored.
As for permanent shelter, 2,700 units will be constructed and donated by the San Miguel Foundation. There will also be a sports complex with dormitories for athletes, a grand central market worth P200 million, and bypass roads. A “100-bed capacity” for the city government will also be donated by the Ayala Foundation, according to Del Rosario. (It was unclear if he was referring to a hospital.)
Since all buildings are now considered debris, these will be removed so land development can begin, he said.
The old two-lane roads will be widened to four to six lanes. Power lines will now be underground (“sa ilalim na“), and drainage facilities will be improved. A sewage treatment facility will ensure that the water going to Lanao Lake will be clean.
The area along Lanao Lake and Agus River will also be converted into a no-build zone and will include a park and promenade.
The Department of Trade and Industry has been implementing livelihood programs for residents since the war began raging; this includes dressmaking, food processing, noodle-processing, rice milling, and woodworking.
According to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, they have asked for additional budget for mini rice mills and Kia Bongo trucks to haul their products. These will also be distributed to 12 recipients on Wednesday.
Also to be given away on Wednesday are electronics starter kits and carpentry tools — 20 sets each — and 35 sewing machines for garment-making. There will be 200 sewing machines in all to be provided, playing on the residents’ strengths. The DTI will help sell these products afterwards.
Entrepreneurs will also be given access to the market — such as paying for their market stalls locally and all the way to Manila. The DTI has also gotten them stalls in tiangge (bazaars) and malls, and has even dedicated its office ground floor to promote Marawi products.
The DTI is working on opening public markets in Marawi, and has identified three locations with the HUDCC. It will also open commissaries and stores around the city. It is also identifying an eco-zone for bigger manufacturing companies so that residents who will not put up businesses will still find work.
As for financing, Lopez again mentioned the zero-percent interest loans being offered by DTI attached agency Small Business Corporation (SBCorp) through the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3 Program). Business owners who can present relevant documents can borrow up to P100,000 so they can start anew. This will run until April, and there will be a briefing at the capitol held by SBCorp every Friday starting January 5 so that more people will know about the program.
The DTI also met with suppliers of construction materials who committed that they will not raise prices and will ensure supply in Marawi to speed up recovery.
According to Gandamra, he met Muntinlupa Mayor Jaime Fresnedi, who pledged scholarship grants worth P25 million for five years. The Marawi government will add to this to increase coverage.
Roque pointed out that there are also scholarships from the Department of Education, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. There are agriculture-related scholarships too, as well as free tuition for state universities and colleges.
AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES
Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan said they are turning over vegetable seeds, corn seeds, rice seeds, and fertilizer, as well as new technology for farmers, such as four-wheel drive tractors, harvesters, corn shellers, rice threshers, and water pumps.
Residents will also be given animals to breed.
In the long term, the Department of Agriculture will work with the DTI and the Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship to mentor “agri-preneurs” so that their crops can be processed and become high-value.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources National Director Eduardo Gongona said that they have a program covering the entire Lanao Lake, where beneficiaries will be given 500 boats (bangka), as well as P2,500 and gillnets. Marawi, in particular, will have 200 boats with the accompanying cash and gillnets.
Its program Balik Sigla ng mga Ilog at Lawa is also reviving rivers and tributaries. Two million fingerlings and 50 breeders will be placed in Lanao Lake.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana addressed reports that Islamic State-affiliated groups are recruiting more people by saying they are monitoring the situation. There is no confirmation yet that indeed recruitment is being done, although Lorenzana said they heard from other countries’ intelligence services that the ISIS-affiliated groups are seeking financial help from their Middle Eastern comrades.
This means, said the Secretary, that they are having difficulties with their resources; without that, they will have a hard time recruiting.
For its part, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are recruiting people to join them, Lorenzana said.
AFP chief of staff General Rey Guerrero said seven battalions are left in Marawi to maintain security, while an engineer brigade is present to assist in the reconstruction.
Department of the Interior and Local government Undersecretary General Eduardo Año added that PNP personnel have been added in Marawi, and 11 checkpoints are in place. The Bureau of Fire Protection is constructing a fire station and procuring fire trucks.
As for the “management” of the dead and the missing, he said that they are still trying to account for all the missing persons, and are deploying additional K-9 in the city.
Peace summits are being conducted between Muslim leaders and the military to counter violent extremism.