CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Three years after the government declared Marawi City “liberated” after the months-long war of state forces against the alleged ISIS-inspired Maute group, a local leader said there is nothing to commemorate as many residents remain displaced.
The government’s Task Force Bangon Marawi announced holding of “Liberation Day” activities such as the unveiling of infrastructure projects and honoring of soldiers killed in Marawi.
“There is nothing to commemorate, only pains and our sufferings that continue till today,” said Drieza Lininding, chairperson of the Moro Consensus Group, in a statement posted on social media.
The group urged his fellow Maranaos, especially those who have been displaced and civil society organizations, not to join in any commemorative activities.
“We don’t feel liberated at all, because after three years we are still not allowed to go back to our homes and communities for no apparent reason, even if the search and retrieval of unexploded bombs and ordnance have already been completed,” Lininding said.
“The so-called commemoration is only adding insult to our injury. More than a thousand residents from the 24 [barangays] of main affected areas of Marawi are still displaced,” he added.
Around 300,000 Marawi residents fled during the peak of the Marawi battle. Lininding said the task force has yet to resolve displacement of the hundreds of Marawi residents who until now have not been able to return to their respective homes after assurances from the national government were made.
“The only activities that our group will support is the unconditional return to our homes and just compensation for our losses and damage,” he stressed.
For the past three years, Lininding and other Marawi leaders and refugees have expressed frustrations during dialogues with the task force and other government officials why they cannot return to their homes.
In a government news release, Task Force Bangon Marawi chairperson Eduardo del Rosario insisted that they are “well within their respective timelines with regard to the completion of projects aimed at restoring Marawi back to its former glory by December of 2021.”
But Lininding criticized the government’s master development plan for Marawi, calling it “incoherent and inappropriate for a post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation” because it focuses more on public infrastructure and government buildings.
“When you say rehabilitation or reconstruction it should be restorative in nature, to rebuild what was there before and not to permanently prohibit the people from returning to their homes because of some projects that they don’t need,” he said.
He said the primary need of displaced residents of Marawi rebuild their houses, adding they cannot benefit from the proposed barangay complexes, parks, museum, and other infrastructure if they cannot have a roof over their heads.
Lininding said it is “insensitive” on the part of the government to put these projects without consideration for those who have lost their homes due to the conflict.(davaotoday.com)