Hope hangs in the air

Many lakeshore residents of the Islamic City of Marawi, “liberated from the terrorist influence” two years ago this month by government troops, remain in anxious agony, with blocks of them apparently deciding never to return—at least in the near future.

Hope hangs in the air

Since President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi liberated on Oct. 17, 2017 after a five-month siege by military-described youthful terrorists, the government had shifted gear in planning to rehabilitate the city’s most affected area and turn it into a modern urban center.

The government’s persuasive rhetoric has been that those who lost their livelihood, houses and some kin in the bloody battle between the foreign-inspired terrorists and determined government troops would be able to return before long to their homes in the most affected area near the 340-square kilometer Lake Lanao.

The five-month battle—begun on May 23, 2017 when Filipino security forces carried out an operation to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the ISIS-affiliated Abu Sayyaf Group—left around 160 soldiers and 1,000 terrorists dead.

Part of the government’s rehabilitation program is to turn the most affected area into a modern urban center, and to make some 124,000 internally displaced persons or IDPs, by count of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, to return to what is now dubbed Ground Zero.

Officials of Task Force Bangon Marawi, a government inter-agency body organized to facilitate the rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction efforts in Marawi, have said the IDPs, under the program, must undergo profiling and biometric registration.

At the same time, the entire Ground Zero would have to be surveyed and tagged to facilitate identifying who owns what property.

“Once they go back, they have the right titles, and we have established the right ownership,” Task Force Bangon Marawi chairperson Eduardo del Rosario of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council has said.

But IDPs have talked of a graphic struggle complying with the requirements, according to them, mostly in the form of documents the government has asked of them in exchange for relief and aid, form livelihood assistance and a chance to visit where the land where their homes or shops once stood in the Lanao sun and moon.

Today, for thousands of Maranaws, hope continues to hang in the air.

Topics: Marawi City , Hope , Rodrigo Duterte , Abu Sayyaf Group , Task Force Bangon Marawi , Eduardo del Rosario
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