Homesick Marawi residents yearn to rebuild lives as Philippines rebuilds city

Government troops patrol the outskirts of Marawi city, Philippines. (AP/File)
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Updated 20 October 2020

Homesick Marawi residents yearn to rebuild lives as Philippines rebuilds city

  • Displaced group leader urges govt. to expedite reconstruction work as majority “remain in cramped, temporary shelters”

MANILA: Displaced residents in Marawi’s ground zero, the scene of a five-month battle between Philippines forces and members of Daesh-inspired militant groups, said they couldn’t wait until 2022 “to start rebuilding their lives,” and renewed their appeal for the government to allow them to return home.

Drieza Liningding, Moro Consensus Group chair, told Arab News on Tuesday: “If we follow the (government’s) timeline, that means we’ll have to wait until 2022 ... The people are now helpless. 

“It has been three years already. We don’t even have access to our homes because we are not allowed to enter the area,” he added.

The Marawi siege, launched by the pro-Daesh Maute group, began on May 23, 2017, and lasted until October that year. More than 1,000 militants, government troops and civilians were killed, while the once-bustling city was flattened, displacing more than 100,000 residents.

The government has repeatedly assured residents of rehabilitation efforts in the war-torn city, including the construction of a permanent shelter for displaced residents from 24 villages in the most affected areas (MAA), which is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

Liningding, however, pointed out that while they were “not questioning” the government’s promise to complete the reconstruction of the city before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, it was also a fact that a majority of Marawi residents “remain in cramped, squalid temporary shelters, while others were forced to stay with relatives or find a place elsewhere.”

Liningding reiterated the group’s demand for the government to speed up the process of their return, as well as provide compensation for the damage to their properties.

“The so-called ... Marawi Rise and Master Development Plan (is) incoherent and inappropriate for post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation because it focuses more on public infrastructure and government buildings that we lacked before the siege,” Liningding said.

“When you say rehabilitation or reconstruction, it should be restorative in nature for what used to be there, not to permanently bar the people from returning because of projects that are not actually needed,” he added, noting that the ongoing infrastructure projects impacted nearly 50 percent of houses in the MAA.

“What’s the use of barangay (village) complexes, parks, museums, cafeteria, guest houses, police stations and other projects for those who have lost them homes?” Liningding asked.

Duterte allotted 3.56 billion pesos ($73.38 million) for the reconstruction of Marawi earlier this year.

On Monday, in a televised address, he pledged to rebuild the city, despite the current hurdles.

“The money is there. Do not worry. We will continue to spend until such time that Marawi is rebuilt to its former glory,” he said.

Liningding, in response, said the president should not pass the blame to the displaced and helpless residents of Marawi‘s MAA.

“(Duterte) of all people should know that we have nothing to do with the delays and failures of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) in the rehabilitation of Marawi,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, TBFM’s chairman, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario, said that war-torn Marawi would rise again as a “modern and vibrant Islamic City,” citing the various infrastructure projects in the pipeline.

Del Rosario has repeatedly insisted that the TFBM, along with its 56 member-agencies, is on schedule for the completion of projects aimed at restoring Marawi to its former glory by December 2021.

Construction of key infrastructure projects inside Marawi’s MAA was in full-swing until July after authorities eased restrictions which were imposed due to the coronavirus disease pandemic.

Academic freed in Iran ‘blown away’ by support

Updated 01 December 2020

Academic freed in Iran ‘blown away’ by support

SYDNEY: An Australian-British academic released after two years imprisoned in Iran on spying charges said she thanked supporters from the “bottom of my heart” Tuesday, saying they helped her through a “never-ending, unrelenting nightmare.”
In her first statement since arriving back in Australia, Middle East scholar Kylie Moore-Gilbert said she was “totally blown away” by efforts from friends and family to secure her release.
“I honestly have no words to express the depth of my gratitude and how touched I am,” the 33-year-old said.
“It gave me so much hope and strength to endure what had seemed like a never-ending, unrelenting nightmare. My freedom truly is your victory. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!“
Moore-Gilbert was released last week in a swap for three Iranians linked to a botched plot to kill Israeli officials in Bangkok.
She was arrested by Iran’s hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2018, after attending an academic conference in the holy city of Qom in central Iran.
She was later charged with espionage and sentenced to 10 years in jail, allegations she has denied.