03 July 2017

Government braces for Marawi rehabilitation

Government is gearing up for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi, which has been heavily damaged following the month-long conflict in the Islamic city.

At a press briefing in Malacañan on Monday, July 3, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that President Rodrigo Duterte has tasked him to head the Task Force Bangon Marawi, an interagency task force for the recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of Marawi City and other areas affected by the clashes between government forces and Maute terror group.

“We are now preparing the mechanism to go into rehabilitation and recovery as soon as the fighting stops in Marawi,” Lorenzana said.

The interagency task force is created through Administrative Order 3 signed by the President on June 28. It mandates several key government agencies to work together for Marawi City’s reconstruction.

As the head of the Task Force Bangon Marawi, Lorenzana will have operational control and supervision of the entity as well as overall responsibility to ensure that the objectives of the President’s order are accomplished.

The task force, in coordination with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is tasked to organize and deploy a quick response team, conduct post-conflict assessment, oversee the construction of temporary and permanent shelters, and facilitate the immediate restoration of public utilities such as water and power.

It will also ensure health and sanitation, help revive businesses, and restore peace and order.

Lorenzana said the military will have to clear the areas first of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or any explosives once the fighting stops in order for them to allow civilians to return home.

He noted that soldiers still have to clear at least 1,500 houses and buildings in the conflict area particularly in the central business district.

“At the rate of clearing of 70 to 100 houses per day, it will take them some time to clear the area,” he said.

He added that the recovery and rehabilitation of the city will take time because many buildings were destroyed by the aerial bombings and the terrorists either burned or blew up buildings and houses.

But Lorenzana said people living in areas which are not directly affected by the hostilities may be allowed to go home.

He likewise said that with the President’s administrative order, they can start stockpiling construction materials for the rehabilitation of Marawi City.

“We already have one engineering brigade, Army brigade, always on standby who will go there immediately once the fighting stops to start rebuilding the infrastructure of the city — lights, water, roads, bridges that were destroyed, if there are any, and rebuilding of houses, buildings of the government,” he said.

The task force will prioritize the restoration of stores and banks to provide the people with their needs and to prop up business activities.

“We will involve the local government leaders there, the mayors, the governors, the barangay captains, because we are going to establish a defense mechanism here so that the event — the event for the past month in Marawi will not be repeated,” he added.

Although he will work in close coordination with the local government unit, Lorenzana said government efforts to rebuild Marawi City will remain free of politics.

Lorenzana, meanwhile, expressed hopes that the conflict in Marawi will be over by the time the President delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24 at the Batasang Pambansa.

“It is my hope that wala ng bakbakan… That is one of the things that I have asked the commanders on the ground, that if they could terminate the conflict there before the President goes on his SONA,” he said.

The cessation of hostilities is important because the President can also announce the rehabilitation program for the city and civilians could return to their homes, the Defense chief added.

Philippine-Indonesia joint sea patrol

Also during the same press briefing Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella reported that the joint Philippine-Indonesia patrol of the Celebes Sea will start this week.

The coordinated joint patrol between the Philippines and Indonesia is aimed at strengthening the security of the two countries, especially between their common borders.

“We aim to improve the interoperability of our forces with the sharing of information and exchange of best practices,” Abella said.

Abella also gave an update on the donations for the military casualties in Marawi City.

As of 10 a.m. Monday, the donations given through Land Bank for military casualties is P2,686,870.98.

And for Marawi internally displaced persons the total donations is P616,530.71.

As of Sunday, there were 1,717 civilians rescued by government troops, 336 killed terrorists and 402 recovered high-powered firearms.###PND