Lopsided priorities in Marawi rehab

PUNCHLINE

by Ali G. Macabalang

There is a saying that “any wrong step always ends up wrong.”

This is in reality apt in the case of the snail-paced rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in war-torn Marawi City.

As I look at it, hereunder is a litany of some perceived wrong steps before, during and after the Marawi siege:

Palliative combat solution – Sages (scholars) say that killing some rats infesting a home should not in any way entail burning down the entire house. A retired 3-star general friend of mine once told me that President Duterte should have ordered hundreds of military and police snipers to engages the fewer Dawla Islamiya (Maute) and Abu Sayyaf militants to avoid indiscriminate casualties and save Marawi from mass destructions;

Skewed rehab planning – After the so-called “liberation” of Marawi from the marauders, the government created the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) to plan and execute rehab and recon efforts. In the planning of debris clearing and road-network construction, a high ranking official of DPWH – a key TFBM member-agency – conveyed to me his dismay over the non-participation of “genuine” leaders of IDPs in the planning stage, calling the glitch “irregular;”

Habitual lies – When Malacañang was in the frontline of providing updates, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a televised announcement that he would conduct a weekly media forum, possibly in Marawi City, to update the public on the state of rehab efforts in the city. No single weekly media forum by him happened in the city. TFBM Chair Sec. Eduardo del Rosario replicated the same lies repeatedly about the dates of Ground Zero residents homecoming;

Flimsy Contracts awarding – Contrary to the state policy of harnessing in community engineering works qualified local contractors, the TFBM commissioned the NHA-blacklisted Edd Mari Construction to undertake the P2.3-billion debris and UXO clearing, P1.7-billion Ground Zero road project, and another P700-million road building in MAA.

Barangay chairmen were allegedly allowed by the city government to contract the building of the barangay halls in the GZ at P17-million each. In comparison to the P3.8-million for construction of a two-floor barangay hall by the BARMM government, Marawi’s version is in excess of P13.2 million. Ironically, some critics accuse BARMM of corruption.

Fund misspending – The national government had released the P96.4-million funds in the 2018 special allotment release order (SARO) for the purchase of Bureau of Fire Protection facilities (P7.3M), installation of fire hydrants (P3.5M), and purchase of BFP equipment, supplies and materials (P85M). But no fire-truck was purchased, putting Marawi in stark irony after six fires hit the city this year alone.

The BFP, city government and TFBM are reportedly “waiting” for the donation of three or four fire-trucks promised by China. What if China reneges on the promise and another fires the city, will the residents again watch the flame to eat up their properties?

Tourism orientation – Construction of structures for tourism industry development is essential during peacetime. But this orientation as exemplified by the current construction of mega central market center, memorial park, and other intensive structures at the Ground Zero is inappropriate when there is no prior tracking yet for the whereabouts of IDPs still scattered across the country in miserable life. Some IDPs could be selling shabu for survival.

Buildings are useless without people such as the IDPs. Attracting tourists prior to bringing evacuees home is as bad as hellish priority.

No IDPs tracking – In a media briefing via zoom by TFBM and MSU officials concerning COVID-19, I asked the guests – one of them Undersecretary Felix Castro – on who is primarily responsible for the tracking of IDPs. No specific answer was given.

Parts of the huge funds allocated for Marawi rehab and mostly passing through TFBM should be awarded to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to do the tracking. NCMF has a nation-wide network of field offices that can comprehensively find the locations of IDPs and help persuade them to return home in due time.

There are several other untold glitches involved in the Marawi rehab and recon efforts. But suffice it to say that in the aforementioned instances, the presence of LOPSIDED PRIORITIES is as clear as the midday sunlight.

If I am asked for my suggested solutions to the cited problems, I will just invoke the application of the opposite of all narrated gray areas. (AGM)

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