Two years after the Marawi Siege, remnants of the tragic war that killed more than a thousand people including extrimists, government forces and civilians, is still visible.
The battle ground which is now called the Most Affected Area (MAA) remained devastated.
Traces of bullets that pierced through the walls of houses and establishments, yanked off ceilings, and demolished infrastructures caused by military aircrafts are among the remains of the war barely visible to the naked eye.
In the MAA, no one is around except from military forces guarding the area.
It came to a point that the majority tagged Marawi as “ghost city.”
Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra, however, broke his silence to end the stigma.
“Marawi is not a ghost city.”
“People should look around, the MAA is just 25 hectares of the whole city, look around we are there, people are alive, people has returned to their normal routine, we are people-we are not ghost,” an emotional mayor said.
The Marawi mayor, however, said economic activity in the city is coming back as more sectors have been cleared by the military.
“This is a testament that we are slowly recovering from the scars of a fierce battle,” Gandamra said.
Gandamra said that the ongoing rehabilitation projects inside and outside the MAA or the “ground zero” are proof that the city “will rise again.”
“24 months to move in from the rubble is not enough. Losing loved ones, devastated loved and shattered dreams cannot be undone in two years. What is paramount is the love to live a new life with a hope of a strengthened community which is based on everyone’s support and cooperation,” Gandamra said.
He added that the ongoing recovery of “unexploded ordnance” (UXO) and the demolition of properties have contributed to the delay in the rehabilitation time frame.
Gandamra stressed that safety and security is the utmost consideration in the clearing operations.
But even while rehabilitation is ongoing, some projects, which were just a dream before are now realities. These are the flood control project right before the Mapandi bridge at the center of Marawi and the (dream road) diversion from from Saquiran town to the Poblacion of Marawi City, the mayor said.
The diversion road earned a monicker because no one would believe that the promised road by the late Lanao sel Sur Govenor Mamintal Alonto Adiong Sr. will be realized.
Saguiran town, which used to be a sleeping town is now gaining economic activity since the temporary shelter of the displaced families is located in Sagonsongan village, which is boundary of Marawi and Saguiran town.
A report made by Project Rise dated August 8, 2019 showed that a total of 330 explosive remnants of war (ERW) were recovered and were already neutralized and disposed.
Project Rise, is a government body tasked in the rehabilitation of Marawi City.
A total 70 UXOs were also recovered mostly by the members of debris management in coordination with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) . Six of which were exploded and detonated while 42 others are for detection and recovery.
Sectors 1, 2 and 3 are 99 percent cleared of UXOs while Sector 5 is already 80 percent cleared.
The mayor said the refusal of some property owners to allow the demolition of their properties also contributed to the delays in the rehabilitation “getting their consent took so long, because most of them are not residing here while others has yet to decide what to do with the space.
Gandamra said residents were allowed to visit their properties to assess with the help of government agencies whether it can still be repaired or be demolished.
As of August 7, Project Rise reported that a total of 2,804 property owners have already issued consent and are due for demolition.
Government have already demolished a total of 1,875 structures and 1,720 of which already cleared with debris.
Project Rise recorded a total of 5,403 actual structures in the nine affected sectors in the city.
Project Rise reported a 52.48 percent accomplishment as of July 31, 2019 based on the timeline of Marawi’s rehabilitation.
As scheduled the dates of reentry: Sec 1 – end of July; Sec 2/3-end of august; Sec 4/5-end of Sept; Sec 6/7- end of Oct and Sec 8 and 9 – end of Nov
Eric Ybañez the Marawi rehab project engineer from the NHA said they are working as scheduled “We are doing as planned and with caution because we cannot compromise the security of the people.”
A stronger Marawi rising
Gandamra said these developments will never happen without the help of government.
“We are hurt if people in Manila said Marawi is a ghost city. We are slowly building our lives back. We were never abandoned by government. President Duterte made true his promise to rebuild Marawi,” Gandamra said.
Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Counicl (HUDCC) chair Eduardo del Rosario said “the government is not sleeping, we are doing as planned with the support of the people.”
Hasmina Dipatuan, an official of Mindanao State University said: “You can see many housing units here inside the teachers Village here in Marawi, dumarami ang pumupunta dito, makita nya..tingnan nyo ang paligid, iba na ang Marawi ngayon, natutuwa kami dahil may military na, sana huwag na silang kukunin dito sa Marawi.”
“Those saying that Marawi is a ghost city are people not from Marawi, it hurts us, we are here we are not ghosts, we do not understand why they speak in our behalf to tell lies, they should stay and live here, so they will know, we are here,” she added.
For Concepcion Semante, 62, who once enjoy the booming business inside the Marawi Commercial Complex, the Marawi siege is a lesson learned. “We lost our business, but we will rise again, magaan na sa loob namin na babalik na kami, I am happy at makaplano na kami ano ang dapat na gagawin sa aming lupain,naka-phobia dahil sa nangyari pero natoto na kami. I am happy, magaan na sa loob, makita na namin ang bahay namin, puede na kaming magsimula, kabuhayan namin nawala, pero babangon kami.”
The government did not turn its back against Marawi people, in fact, NHA Manager Marcelino Escalada is always here, he makes sure that everything is properly coordinated and is done according to the plan which they presented during the public hearing last April, the mayor said.
“Hindi kami pinabayaan ni President (Rodrigo) Duterte, lahat ng gusto niya pinapaabot sa amin ni Mr. Escalada, at lahat nga stakeholders kinoconsulta,” he added.
The National Housing Authority (NHA) made through the President’s promise of rebuilding the city.
The mayor said there are delays in the rehabilitation because certain protocols and processes have to be observed to keep everybody secure and safe.
Recently, NHA and Marawi City led the groundbreaking for the construction of the 2,000 permanent shelters that are set for completion in March 2020.
The 2,000 housing units will be built in the 39-hectare land that will cater to 2,000 families, the land was purchased by the NHA which will also undertake the land development while the construction will be financed by the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) Foundation.
National Housing Authority General Manager and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council Secretary-General Marcelino Escalada assured that rehabilitation timeline remains on target.
“The instruction of the President is clear, the NHA works on the temporary shelter and permanent houses, for us also to supervise the debris management, we have the marching order and we are working as scheduled,” Escalada emphasized.
According to Escalada funds were only released on 2018 into the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to finance the rehabilitation and restoration of Marawi after the assessments of the area.
NHA was to build temporary and permanent shelters in Marawi, aside from clearing the area of explosives and debris.
The process of rehabilitation of Marawi City “must be structurally sound and culturally sensitive” Escalada said.
Del Rosario has assured the people of Marawi that his agency will give flesh to the government’s promise.
Establishing a new Marawi is a big challenge not only to the government but also to the Meranaws especially, as a new edifice will rise from the ruins of war which killed many.
“We have the blueprint, the new one, this is drawn of the consultations and discussion with Marawi residents and stakeholders, it is craft from the culture of Meranaws and we agree on it,” Escalada stressed.
Gandamra said the Teachers Village inside the MSU is a testament that Meranaw’s are one in rebuilding their city.
“So how are we a ghost city?” the mayor added.
The mayor also stressed the big help of the soldiers presence and the martial law.
“Now we know everybody getting inside Marawi,” the mayor said.
In September 2016, Duterte promised “A stronger Marawi will rise again.”
The country’s Islamic capital was no besiege by the five-month long armed conflict between government forces and elements of the rebel Maute group and gunmen affiliated with the Islamic State (IS).