Gov't turns over 500 houses to Marawi residents

MANILA, Philippines – The government turned over 500 houses in temporary shelters to displaced residents of Marawi City on Wednesday, December 27, after the end of 5-month clashes between government forces and terrorists there.

President Rodrigo Duterte was scheduled to lead the turnover at Barangay Sagonsongan that afternoon, but he later said in his remarks in Tubod, Lanao del Norte, that his party wasn't able to land in Marawi due to poor visibility.

Another 300 houses will be transferred in Matungao, Lanao del Norte, through a project of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a press conference in the city on Wednesday morning.

In Barangay Sagonsongan, there will be a total of 1,170 transitory shelters, of which 551 have already been completed. These housing units have provisions for electricity and water, added Roque.

"The first 250 will occupy before the New Year. And the remaining 250 will occupy before January 7," said Task Force Bangon Marawi chief Eduardo del Rosario. He explained that they would ensure first that the electricity and water lines would be connected to the main line.

"Every 10 days or two weeks, we will transfer the houses until we reach the 1,170 housing units. Our target is that not later than February, end of February, we have given all 1,170 units," added Del Rosario in a mix of English and Filipino. (READ: Gov't to build 1,000 temporary homes for Marawi evacuees)

Del Rosario said that agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the National Housing Authority (NHA), the local governments of Marawi City and Lanao del Sur province, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) worked together in this effort.

A technical working group determined the beneficiaries of these shelters. "So ang ating inuna po ay iyong talagang may matinding pangangailangan, especially iyong mga nasa evacuation centers at saka iyong mga nagre-rent sa labas," explained Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra. (We prioritized those with urgent needs, especially those in evacuations centers and those who were renting outside [the city.])

"Marawi has started to recover, because these are the first housing shelters that would be transferred to the victims of the war here in Marawi," Roque said in Filipino.

Marawi City was besieged by terrorists called the Maute Group in May until government troops killed its leaders and liberated the city in October.

As for permanent housing, Del Rosario said, "It will be constructed and it will be donated by San Miguel Foundation, about 2,700 units."

"Aside from that, we will be constructing the sports complex with dormitories for athletes, a Grand Center Market worth P200 million, and bypass roads needed by the City of Marawi. And a 100-bed capacity for the city government and will be donated by the Ayala Foundation," continued Del Rosario.

Meanwhile, Gandamra said that around 18,000 families or more than 90,000 individuals have returned to the city.

"The restoration of all the vital facilities, like electricity and water supply is ongoing...In coordination with the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry], we are returning our countrymen's livelihood, which were lost due to the war," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said that some will also receive trucks from Kia for hauling services. Twelve Kia Bongo units will be distributed before the year ends, said Lopez, along with more rice mills, starter kits for electronics, carpentry tools, and sewing machines for garments.

DTI has likewise acquired and paid for the stalls in public markets in Manila and other places where products from Marawi are sold, added Lopez.

Lopez also said that the Small Business Corporation (SBC) is offering interest-free financing up to P100,000 to eligible borrowers.

The DTI and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) has already identified 3 areas where public markets could be set up. The DTI will also be identifying an "ecozone" space for medium to big businesses.

"At least may trabahong papasukan para may manufacturing output din na manggagaling din dito sa Marawi," he said. (At least there would be jobs for some here, so the city can have manufacturing output.)

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt Gen Rey Leonardo Guerrero said that there will still be around 7 battallions in the city to maintain security, and the 54th Engineering Brigade to assist in reconstruction efforts. The security of construction workers in temporary shelters will also be prioritized, said Guerrero. – Rappler.com