FILE PHOTO: UNTV Drone shot of Marawi City ruins
MANILA, Philippines – On May 23 last year, Islamic State-inspired militants started an uprising against the government in the city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur.
Abdullah and Omar Maute, together with Basilan fighters headed by Isnilon Hapilon, the then emir of Islamic State in South East Asia, attempted to establish a “caliphate” in the region by leading the militants to storm Marawi city, triggering a five-month battle that resulted in deaths of thousands of people, leaving the city that was once the center of trade and culture in southern Philippines, in total ruin.
One year after the chaos, more than half of the city’s population have gone back home. This was announced by Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque during a briefing at Malacañang on Tuesday, May 22, though he said conditions in the city remains far from normal. Government forces are still working to clear the main battle area of bombs, IEDs and other remnants of the fiercest battle in the modern-day Philippines.
“The good news is that, as far as the residents are concerned, 70 percent have gone back to their homes. We have provided temporary or permanent homes for them,” he said.
However, thousands of families remain displaced. It was not easy for the residents to start their lives anew as all their properties were destroyed by the war. Although their current earnings are not the same as before the war broke out, the internally displaced residents are still thankful for being able to return to their homes. And even with just a small income, they can still address their daily needs.
“Dati po maraming nakatira dito ngayon nahati na po kasi yung iba di pa bumabalik. Yung kita ko po di tulad dati nasa P700 isang araw ngayon pinakamalaki na P400 minsan P300,” narrated a resident, Bolkya Marohom Mbsar, who earns his living as a tricycle driver.
(Many people used to live here. Now there are only half as many because others have not yet returned. I used to earn P700 per day, this time the most I can earn is P400 -P300.)
Resident Mimang Malaco is also asking for aid from the government after using up her capital for the treatment of her ailing husband. For now, Mimang is just depending on the financial assistance she gets from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other private organizations.
“Iyong asawa ko po di makapagtrabaho kasi paralyze po. Gusto ko humingi ng tulong mismo sa mahal na pangulo,” she said.
(My husband is unable to work because he’s been paralyzed. I am appealing directly to our dear president.)
In a speech yesterday, May 22, President Rodrigo Duterte said he was taking full responsibility for the Marawi crisis.
“I did not anticipate or even guess that there would be so much ordnance and the fight would take us about four months to finish. All of these faults, if it is indeed one, or our faults, it belongs and it falls on my shoulders as commander-in-chief. And I assume full responsibility to the nation for what’s going to happen,” the President said.
The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) on Monday, May 21, announced that the government will have to allot P53.4 billion for the rehabilitation of the conflict-torn city. However, the fund does not cover the amount needed for the repair of the entire ground zero or the main battle zone. The government targets to completely rebuild Marawi by 2021. – Marje Pelayo | UNTV News & Rescue