After the battle: Rebuilding Marawi

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Five months of battle reduced most of the Islamic City of Marawi to rubble. The battle to roust Daesh-inspired bandits from the country’s only Muslim-majority city resulted in devastation from aerial bombing, artillery and the urban combat of door-to-door fighting.

From May 23, 2017 to Oct. 17, 2017, the military pounded the city with bombs and bullets, fighting vicious battles for control of every bridge and road that the combined forces of the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf aiding them struggled just as determinedly to hold. The deaths of Omar Maute and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon brought the fighting to its denoument. As the fighting wound down, the military and police set about ensuring that each home and structure was cleared of suspected terrorists, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and booby traps.

Once the process of securing the city and declaring it free of threats was complete, the larger job of government loomed up close: Rebuilding the city’s physical attributes—its government structures, the roads and the bridges that link it to the rest of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The capital of the province of Lanao Del Sur is now in the process of rebuilding what war has left desolate.

A light moment with (from left) D. Edgard A. Cabangon, chairman of the Aliw Media Group, DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar and Business Mirror / Philippines Graphic publisher T. Anthony C. Cabangon (Photo by ALYSA SALEN)

The effort to rebuild this city is moving at a rapid pace, according to Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, who spoke to journalists at a recent Business Mirror Coffee Club forum. According to him, thousands of homes have already been rebuilt and the DPWH, which is tasked with rebuilding the roads, bridges and infrastructure in that city, is proceeding with all due alacrity.

“More than P10 million” has been allocated by his department for their part of the effort to rebuild Marawi, Villar said. These funds will be used for “more than simply rebuilding the destroyed infrastructure.”

Beyond rebuilding, Villar said, his department has been instructed by President Duterte to work toward jump-starting development efforts in the city and its environs: “We will be upgrading structures and following a master plan as well.”

When asked about the timelines for the rebuilding effort, Villar said this: “We’re expecting to have the financing by the second half of the year. We expect to have results by the third quarter of the year.”

He said the DPWH built the road network and drainage systems for the initial relocation sites for displaced Marawi residents, though he also noted that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has its own DWPH office. “We already have the cost estimates and master-plan for the road network there.”

“In terms of the road networks in the relocation areas, we are almost finished,” Villar said. “Now we have to go in and fix the road networks within the city of Marawi, in the main battle area, and the surroundings, to spur development there. We will build a new road.”

While war is its own terrible kind of hell, natural calamities are frequent occurrences in the Philippines as well. The archipelago sits on the world’s Typhoon Belt and the Pacific Ring of Fire—the most seismically and volcanically active area of the planet.

The rebuilding of Marawi’s major infrastructure—roads, bridges, drainage systems among them—will be done in accordance with global standards to improve the resistance of these structures to heavy flooding and earthquakes, Villar said.

“We can see that the President is very active,” he said. “when calamities hit, he is the first one on the ground.” The DPWH, he added, has “a standby fund. If you see the latest natural calamities in Lanao, Biliran, we’ve been able to respond quickly to repair the bridges there. In fact, if you see the bridges that were repaired a few months ago, most of them are passable at this point.”

The government’s reaction time to calamities, he added, “is faster now.” He also said the DPWH will “spend nearly P100 billion” on to ensure that the buildings, bridges and roads built by his department are “seismic-rated” and capable of withstanding temblors better. “We are also building additional flood control structures. With that kind of investment, we should be able to feel the improvement in our calamity preparedness over the next few years.” G





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