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Davao City, Philippines

Rebuilding Marawi

May 26, 2020 - Tuesday 4:05 AM by Allan Nawal

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This is not a political column and I would like to start with that statement.

Three years ago, Marawi City came under siege and the destruction was so immense houses were flattened and buildings left inhabitable — in addition to countless lives lost from all sides: civilians, government troops, and the culprits.

From all accounts, the fighting also displaced over 200,000 people who endured filthy evacuations sites for more than five months.

While a few hundred families were allowed to resettle outside of the main conflict area where bombs lay unexploded, the majority of displaced residents were only allowed to move to temporary relocation sites. Up to this day, none of them were able to return to the most affected areas.

Politicians on the other side of the fence have used this fact to hit the government, saying it has not done anything to alleviate the plight of Marawi residents still outside of the areas they once lived.

“To say that there is government inaction in Marawi City is very unfair to all who have not stopped working to continuously assist our Maranao sisters and brothers since the liberation of Marawi in October 2017 to date,” Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) Chair Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario answered criticisms.

He said the TFBM Field Office, led by Assistant Secretary Felix Castro Jr., reported that there are currently no more internally displaced persons (IDPs) staying inside evacuation centers. “All IDPs are now housed in mostly government-built transitory shelters.”

At least, the TFBM agreed that IDPs were now in transitory shelters.
I would like to start from there.

You see, the claim of the Meranaws that they were not able to return to their homes was correct, after all.

That's where the problem lies.

The dissent among Meranaws is high, judging from posts on social media.

While many of them blamed the Maute/Abu Sayyaf at the onset of the siege, they now blame the government for their endless suffering of not being able to return where they previously lived.

I think this is the feeling that the government, through TFBM, has failed to see.

While the TFBM thinks it was making the lives of the people in temporary shelters comfortable, it has failed to realize that nothing is more comfortable than one's true home.

Take for instance the folk song “Bahay Kubo,” The writer of the song was not bragging about having a nipa hut.

He was actually speaking about living a comfortable life in a nipa hut that is small (kahit munti) because there are fruits and vegetables planted around it. It is indeed true that even if you live in a small house but have a feeling of ownership of the lot it was put up in, you can be productive and be happy. You don't even need government intervention to survive.

This is the same thing that the people of Marawi want: that the government allow them back and rebuild their lives from the start.

This is not saying that they do not need government help anymore. The government could provide assistance such as building materials and food while they restart their lives.

I would agree that they be allowed back into their former areas with the guidance of the government.

If the government does this, we might see Marawi rising faster from the ashes than the pace the rehabilitation is taking.

For Pedro to eat a fish, do not just give him fish. Give him fishing gear and he will eat fish for as long as he wants.