MARAWI SHELTER. Officials of Task Force Bangon Marawi and the city government lead the groundbreaking of a relocation site for permanent shelters in Barangay West Dulay, Marawi City on Thursday’s (Oct. 17, 2019). The site is just one of the several relocation areas for displaced residents. (PNA photo by Nef Luczon)

MARAWI CITY — Amid criticisms characterizing slow-paced rehabilitation works in this city, the chairman of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) said the clearing of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the “most affected area” (MAA) has actually taken “much faster” than expected.

“They said it will take two years, but ours only took a year,” said Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development. Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and TFBM head, during a peace forum Thursday attended by government officials and affected residents here.

Del Rosario explained that the clearing operations involving the removal of UXOs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) was the primary reason why it took the government a year to start the rehabilitation and development works with the MAA.

Despite this, Del Rosario said that the government efforts remain on schedule.

“On October 30, the Army will declare that MAA is safe of bombs, and on November 30, all other projects aligned in the rehabilitation will begin,” he said.

It has been two years since President Rodrigo Duterte declared that the Islamic City was “liberated” from ISIS-inspired Maute militants.

On Wednesday, October 16, TFBM member-agencies led the final disposal of recovered ordnance inside the MAA.

Col. Irineo Sebastian, Task Force Builder commander, said that although clearing may not be at 100% yet, he was confident that the MAA is now safe for residents to return.

However, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra made it clear that affected homeowners within the MAA will not be allowed to repair or make improvements on their properties unless they comply with the necessary permits and clearances.

Some of the requirements, Gandamra said, include the demolition permit, building permit, and appropriate engineering plans. Residents must also submit proof of ownership of their properties, he added.

Earlier this month, several members of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (BARMM) interim parliament sought an investigation on the delays in the rehabilitation efforts. (PNA)