THE PHILIPPINE Army opened an exhibit on Saturday at its headquarters in Metro Manila to commemorate the heroism of government forces who fought against Islamic State-linked terrorists five years ago in Marawi, where residents of the southern Philippine city affected by the destructive siege called on the administration to address issues that continue to hamper recovery.
Jalilah S. Sapiin, a member of the multi-sector Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. should expedite the appointment of the Marawi Compensation Board members to avoid further delay in reparations for civilian lives and properties lost.
“We appeal to President Bongbong Marcos to expedite and make transparent the vetting process of the composition of the Marawi Compensation Board whose members should possess deep knowledge and understanding of the context and culture to ensure that the process of rehabilitation and compensation is appropriate and does not exacerbate conflict,” she said in a statement from Conflict Alert Philippines, secretariat of the autonomous monitoring group.
“It has been almost six months since the law was approved on April 13, 2022. Without a Board, the Marawi Compensation Law cannot be implemented,” said Ms. Sapiin, who also works for the Bangsamoro Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education.
Apart from setting up the board, the group said lingering problems in Marawi City’s rehabilitation include validation of displaced residents, land disputes, issuance of building permits to legitimate property owners, and an updated damage assessment.
PRIVATE HEALTH FACILITIESAnother member of the Marawi group and head of the Bangsamoro Ministry of Health’s Infectious Disease Cluster, Rolanisah Dipatuan-Dimaporo, said the P1-billion allocation under the 2023 national budget for the compensation law is not enough to cover victims, which includes owners of private hospitals and schools.
“The allocation of P1 billion is a welcome but inadequate initial budget for the monumental task of compensating the Marawi siege victims… For example, private schools and hospitals have been asking for inclusion in the Marawi rehabilitation plan,” she said.
“None of the private hospitals in (the most affected areas of the Marawi battle) have been able to rebuild since 2017. We still have unpaid claims from PhilHealth more than five years after the war ended,” she added.
An assessment conducted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimated the cost to public and private property as of Aug. 2018 at about P11.5 billion in damage and P7 billion in losses.
Of the total, private health facilities damage and loss amounted to P371 million, while that of the public sector amounted to P65.5 million, according to the ADB report.
For public infrastructure, the national government’s Marawi reconstruction program was 65% complete as of May, according to the former Task Force Bangon Marawi head, with more than P22 billion in funds released as of 2021.
The Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch said there is a need to improve consolidation, transparency and accountability for the reconstruction budget as
separate reports from different government agencies indicate P42 billion had already been released.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) announced that it is holding a week-long “social healing and peacebuilding activities” in Marawi starting Oct. 16 in commemoration of the end of the siege.
OPAPRU said it will include dialogues with various sectors, including women, youth and former rebels.
In the capital region, the military will hold a wreath-laying ceremony at the Marawi Pylon in Fort Bonifacio on Monday.
More than 160 soldiers and other members of the government security force were killed in Marawi, and over 1,000 others were wounded.
“The series of events will immortalize the sacrifices of soldiers and law enforcers in the liberation of Marawi City, and at same time highlight the city’s journey for peace, development, and rehabilitation,” Army Commanding General Romeo S. Brawner, Jr., said in a statement.
Local terrorist groups led by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf laid siege to Marawi on May 23, 2017, and the heavy gun battle against government forces lasted for almost five months.
Then President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared the city’s liberation from “terrorist influence” on Oct. 17.
Marawi, one the main urban centers in what is now the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, was the most populated city in the region as of the 2015 census with 201,785. — MSJ