Marawi City reconstruction is a national imperative

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Marlen V. Ronquillo

IF the duopoly that dominates the polling market wants to poll an issue with a 100 percent approval, there is one available—the sentiment of Filipinos on rebuilding Marawi City from the ruins. From the A to the E economic classes, from Batanes to Tawi-tawi, from the Filipinos in the deserts of the Middle East to the Filipinos doing seasonal work in areas near the Arctic, the sentiment will be the same: Go, Go, Rebuild Marawi City.

There is no single issue that unites Filipinos more than the need to rebuild places visited by calamities. The cause— natural or man-made— does not matter. It is not in our culture and tradition to leave wrecked places, wrecked. The special circumstances that caused the ruin of Marawi City vest a special urgency to the rebuilding effort.

From a personal realm, I am willing to give up my meager SSS pension (the only amount a sick man can spare) and contribute it to the cause of rebuilding Marawi City. The public-private realm will be just as supportive. More than 26 years ago, after the Pinatubo eruption, the will of the public and private sectors on the issue of rebuilding ravaged communities was tested. There were divergent views on the rebuilding strategy (see the Kelvin Rodolfo-Jose Soriquez dispute on how to handle the civil engineering component), yes. But on the need to rebuild, there was a firm consensus to rebuild the devastated Central Luzon areas. Even the anomalies that attended the rebuilding did not slow down the rehab efforts.

The reconstruction costs, official corruption and all, have been worth it, given the current productivity of the lahar-swamped areas that were once considered unredeemable wasteland.

Congress is a willing partner
Our Congress has many negatives. In the public esteem, it ranks very low and that low approval and trust have been there from time immemorial. The Napoles scam, as it unraveled, made the public think the worst of Congress. But even with its many negatives, it has one saving grace. Unlike the parsimony of congresses in the developed world—think of a Republican-controlled USCongress that wants to cut back health care to the poor and cut taxes to benefit the Top 1 percent—there is no such cruelty in the mind-set of the Philippine Congress, then and now.

Coming to the rescue of calamity-visited areas has been a bright, shining light of all Philippine Congresses.

If the budgetary need of the rebuilding is P10 billion, a bipartisan, bicameral vote to provide that P10 billion, will be there. A vote for an additional expenditure, should the original budget run short, will also be there.

Each and every member of Congress is aware that the Philippines is part of the Ring of Fire. Each and every member operates with the particular mind-set that on the issue of extending support to victims of tragedies, the guiding principle is “ no man is an island.”

Bond floats, through which the DU30 government plans to raise at least P30 billion, are being planned for before 2018 to shore up the Marawi rebuilding funds. Given the favorable environment for state-issue bonds, a P30 billion bond issuance will be snapped up in days.

An adequate budgetary allocation will nudge other sectors to chip in
The 2017 winner of the economic Nobel, Richard H. Thaler, made his mark on his writing on “ nudges.” So what would “ nudge” the private sector, the multilateral institutions and the donor agencies/countries to help in the cause of rebuilding Marawi City?

The answer is the willingness of the Philippine Congress to take the lead in funding the rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts. The flow of willing money from the private sector and international aid institutions comes after the first funding moves of Congress. A large allocation from Congress will definitely push these institutions outside of our official government to also help and help substantially.

We saw that kind of support system after the Pinatubo eruption, the Yolanda rebuilding work and we will surely see that in the Marawi City reconstruction efforts.

A Marshall Plan-like rebuilding is a must
The rebuilding of war-ravaged Western Europe after World War 11 got its name from George Marshall , the chief proponent. The 80th Congress of the US allocated $13 billion ($132 billion today ) which was used for a comprehensive, well-thought-out, well-executed and well-managed rebuilding and reconstruction plan.

The pre-eminent role of Germany today as the largest and most diversified European economy would not have been possible without the miracle work on Germany of the Marshall Plan.

Rebuilding Marawi should likewise be comprehensive and thorough, not like the half-baked, insincere effort that was the Yolanda rehabilitation program. A comprehensive rehab work will help limit the impact of the terrorists’ propaganda and recruitment efforts. A failed, ill-executed plan will be the terrorists’ Exhibit A of the claim the government does not care about Muslims and that Muslim Mindanao will be better off under a caliphate.

One last thing: The rehab efforts should be free from political grifters and opportunists who will always try to lobby for their contractors, suppliers and the rehab personnel. Professionals in, politicians out. The success of the Marshall Plan rested in part on the dedication and professionalism—and the long view—of the globalists Ivy leaguers who administered the Plan.

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