OFFICIALS agree that the speedy rehabilitation of Marawi City is crucial to restoring the community of hundreds of thousands of residents whose lives had been disrupted by five months of fighting between government troops and the Maute Group.
Datu Abul Khayr Alonto, chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), said rehabilitation efforts in the city and nearby areas would ensure that the reign of terror “will never happen again.”
MinDA is one of the government agencies set to lead the reconstruction efforts in the Islamic City. The agency is part of the Task Force Bangon Marawi, and is also one of the members of the sub-committees responsible for health and sanitation; business and livelihood; and resource mobilization.
“We intend to transform Marawi into a better, more progressive and modern city. Lanao del Sur in the 1960s was the most peaceful province just before martial law was declared,” Alonto said.
However, he stressed that while all eyes are on Marawi, the government should not be distracted from its bigger and more crucial aim: to develop the entire Mindanao.
To achieve this, Alonto believes that a shift to a federal form of government will be necessary.
“The systemic shift to federalism can put closure to the Mindanao war. It will spare this country from fragmentation and a fratricidal war of attrition,” he said.
MinDA has listed several flagship programs that it intends to accomplish until 2022 – the construction of the Trans Mindanao High Speed Railway System, putting up of the Tawi -Tawi Economic Zone and Freepor, Agro-Economic Cooperative Zone, Mindanao Executive Leadership Development Academy, Mindanao Marine Merchant Naval Academy and School of Oceanography, Mindanao Development Corridor Strategy which includes the Bangsamoro Economic Corridor, Public and Private Partnership for Development, Renewable Energy Development in Mindanao. Also included in the program is the plan to revive the steel industry in Mindanao, and the development of a cement industry, oil depot and refinery, responsible mining, halal industry and strengthening Islamic financing.
“The Marawi City siege must not deprive the President of the chance to push his commitment to alleviate the economic condition of the Bangsamoro and the national cultural communities and pull them out from the quagmire of poverty and ignorance. Mindanao is ready…today,” Alonto said.
He added that the shift to federalism will sustain the reconstruction program in Marawi City and “unleash” the economic potential of Mindanao.
Alonto said he intends “to operationalize the policy directive of President (Rodrigo) Duterte through the ‘all Moro convention’.”
“This is an inclusive and neutral platform that will ensure the participation of the Bangsamoro and other
indigenous peoples in the greater national discourse on federalism,” he said.
“In order to end the conflict in Mindanao and institutionalize genuine autonomy for the Bangsamoro, the best alternative that the government can provide is the “systemic shift to a federal parliamentary form of government,” he said. “This will unleash the economic potentials of Mindanao and ensure that the region will have an equitable share in the national wealth.”
Alonto said the country should have the same federalism practiced by progressive and successful countries like Germany, Malaysia and Switzerland.
Fix it now
Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, who hails from Bukidnon in Mindanao, said when it comes to the rehabilitation of Marawi, “time is of the essence.”
“We need to fix this now. We must not wait for the (passage of the proposed P3.7 trillion) budget of 2018. It must be now,” the senator said.
He said displaced residents whose houses were damaged in the months-long clashes should be given financial assistance by the government.
Over 140,000 residents fled the Islamic City on May 23 when the Islamic State-linked Maute group seized Marawi.
“There should be some sort of computation per square meter of the damage to help them repair or rebuild their houses. For example, for partially-damaged house, the owner must be given P5,000 per square meter. If (the house was) totally damaged, it must be P10,000 per square meter,” Zubiri said.
“So if the totally-damaged house or property is, for example, 100 square meters, (if you compute) 10,000 times 100 square meters, P1 million must be given to the family to rebuild the house. The government has to give that support.”
Zubiri agreed that the peace and order situation in Mindanao might affect the government’s Build, Build, Build program.
“Right now, our tourism industry was severely affected. No tourist wants to visit us due to martial law,” he said.
“Right now, we don’t have foreign direct investment. Walang bagong mga negosyo na itinatayo dahil nga natatakot sila sa sitwasyon na nangyayari (No one wants to put up new businesses because they fear the current situation).”
“You know, Mindanao is one of the fastest growing regions of the Philippines. And it’s the food basket of the Philippines. If the conflict continues, it will drag down the national economy,” Zubiri said.
The senator said the peace and order problem in Mindanao will affect the country’s growth rate.
“It will slow our tourism growth rate. It will affect the reputation of the Philippines in the international community,” he said.