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Marawi rehab 'on track' to finish next year

Marawi rehab 'on track' to finish next year

MANILA, Philippines — The pandemic did not delay the rebuilding on former conflict areas in Marawi City, which remains “on track” to finish by 2021, the housing chief said on Thursday.

“The rehabilitation of Marawi City is on track and we can state that the rehabilitation will be completed by December of 2021,” Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario told lawmakers in a hearing streamed online.

“In the most affected areas where there’s a number of structures and public infrastructure that’s being constructed, the construction is ongoing and more will follow within the month or by next month,” he added.

Few details are known about the government’s recovery plan in Marawi, an area located in Lanao del Sur that was damaged when homegrown terrorists stormed the city and clashed with army troops.

At the time, the Maute group, which has links to the IS, attacked several areas in the province in May 2017, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial law for two and a half years supposedly to give the military a better handle of the situation. 

The conflict itself, however, ended in October 2017 when Duterte himself declared Marawi “liberated” from terrorists. Since then, the government said the military had been instrumental in rehabilitating areas in Marawi, even using such argument to extend Duterte’s military rule until last year. 

But before the House appropriations committee, Del Rosario admitted the reconstruction process faced funding problems. “We did not get funds for the reconstruction of houses inside most affected areas but instead we got from UN Habitat a certain amount and we are constructing 1,500 housing units,” he said.

“Money for repair of masjids/mosques came from private donations,” he added.

Budget data showed that from 2018 to this year, Marawi was earmarked a total of P17 billion for the area’s repair and rehabilitation. Funds were lodged under the calamity funds, which have remained untouched despite growing needs from the pandemic.

Apart from these funds, line agencies such as the public works and trade department have also allotted separate allocations to the program. In numerous instances in the past, state auditors have flagged concerns over where the money of these agencies went. 

Over the past 4 years, issues on contractors, involving Chinese firms, had also been raised, particularly by residents who opposed their entry. 

As part of the plan, Del Rosario said families whose properties were destroyed was allowed to rebuild houses in the former conflict zone since July last year. “These is a compensation bill pending in Congress and I hope it will be approved in the soonest possible time so that financial assistance can be given to affected families,” he said.

Low budget

In Tuesday’s hearing, legislators questioned the measly budget allocated to housing agencies, particularly to Del Rosario’s Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, an agency established just last year, and was only allocated by the budget agency with P415 million.

Including other housing offices such as the National Housing Authority, which constructs subsidized houses, the Duterte administration is only earmarking P3.68 billion for housing, down from this year’s P7.8 billion.