By Francis Wakefield
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez said that the full rehabilitation of Marawi City which was devastated by the war last year will be in full swing on June 15, 2018.
Galvez said he recently went to the war-torn city to prepare the commanders for the rehabilitation of the city and to ensure that the projects there will not be impeded.
“We have to make sure that it (rehabilitation efforts) will be unimpeded, it will be safe, and our contractors will not be hampered by any threat of kidnapping or any aggressions from the Maute-Isis,” Galvez said.
“That’s why we will be conducting some brainstorming with my commanders so that we will reactivate or we will reorganize our forces in order to support 100 percent the Task Force Bangon Marawi,” he added.
Galvez added that he believes the rehabilitation of the city will be very successful base on the plans which he personally saw and discussions he made with Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council who currently chairs the inter-agency Task Force for the Recovery, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation of Marawi City.
“I’ve been there in Marawi and spoke regularly with Secretary Del Rosario. He said to me that they already conducted consultations and based on his statement the consultations have been favorable. If you will see the plans, (its) very beautiful,” he added.
Galvez said as far as he is concerned, the task force has programs lined up from May 17 to 23, 2018 to commemorate the first year anniversary of the Marawi siege which left more than 1,000 people – Maute/Abu Sayyaf terrorists, soldiers and civilians – dead.
The siege, which lasted for five months, damaged billions worth of properties in the area.
The Duterte administation, it was recalled, has allocated billions of pesos to rehabilitate the war-torn city.
The total cost of the massive rehabilitation of Marawi and nearby areas is estimated to reach P72 billion.
Of the cost, the government estimates P17.2 billion will cover the development of the most affected area in Marawi City involving 24 barangays.
Around P55 billion will be use for the rehabilitation of the rest of the city and nearby towns destroyed by the five months of terror siege. Fund sources included government funds, private donations and official development assistance.
During what seemed like a normal afternoon in Marawi City on May 23, 2017, a firefight erupted between the military and an undetermined number of men, later identifying themselves as the Maute group.
The crossfire resulted in thousands of Maranaos fleeing to relatives, friends or evacuation centers in nearby areas. The chaos and destruction caused by these terrorists prompted President Duterte to declare Martial Law in Mindanao, and to create a body that would help Marawi rise again when the war is over.
Thus, the Duterte administration issued Administrative Order No. 3, and Task Force Bangon Marawi was born. It is composed of various government agencies working together towards the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the conflict-stricken city.
The inter-agency Task Force for the Recovery, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation of Marawi City is headed by Chairperson Eduardo Del Rosario from Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council with the assistance of Office of Civil Defense as the Secretariat.
TFBM is composed of different subcommittees and support groups to ensure that all concerns related to the city’s development process are appropriately addressed. All the subcommittees are working in close partnership with the local governments of ARMM, Lanao del Sur and Marawi.
Galvez earlier said that it would take years before another siege similar to what happened in Marawi City almost a year ago could occur.
Members of the Maute Group and slain Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon led the siege which took place on May 23, 2017. Marawi City was liberated five months later.
“I believe ano yun, it will, it would take years for the Marawi incident to happen again.. That’s why ang ginagawa namin ngayon (what we are doing right now) we are breaking the generational link or generational process so that we can counter the Isis narrative,” Galvez said.
Galvez, at the same time, said that members of the Abu Sayyaf especially the Maute Group suffered a great deal of loss following their defeat from the hands of the government forces.
He said the militants even tried to regroup by recruiting new members but so far they failed.
“Ang nakikita natin ngayon (What we are seeing now) they have been weakened, greatly weakened, with the success that we had in Marawi,” Galvez said.
Galvez said following the siege there were massive loose firearms turned over by residents and local officials in Lanao del Sur by the thousands.
Galvez said despite their defeat, the military is not staying complacent and letting their guard down in efforts of preventing militants from staging future attacks.
“We cannot stay complacent but for us we are very confident that napakataas ng antas ng ating (we have a very high) counter terrorism effort,” he said.
Galvez also said that another way for them to prevent militants from recruiting new members is to stay connected with the Maute and Romato families.
He also said the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has a direct correlations to peace and everything that will espouse lasting peace in Mindanao.
(Its passage) will greatly effect our counterterorrism effort. It has a positive and ultimate direct correlation, and I believe if the BBL, if the peace process will go through with the timelines, I believe we can hasten the counterterorism efforts especially in Central Mindanao,” Galvez said.