MANILA – Efforts to rebuild Marawi City is now going full blast as the government aims to restore the battle-scarred city before President Rodrigo Duterte ends his term in 2022, Malacañang said Wednesday.

“The goal is to completely rebuild Marawi during the term of President Duterte,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said during a press briefing in Marawi City.

In the press briefing, Roque, along with officials of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) headed by Housing And Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Leonardo Guerrero, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra as well as other national and local officials, reported on the accomplishments and plans on rebuilding Marawi.

The Palace official said that TFBM is now conducting post conflict needs assessment (PCNA) in areas affected by the conflict as part of the process of coming up with the initial amount needed to rebuild and restructure Marawi.

In the meantime, the government is building temporary and permanent housing units for displaced Marawi residents.

“The government will build housing units in an area which is only 3.5 kilometers away from the most affected area, and we will be building no less than 6,300 temporary housing units for everyone. We will be building 2,700 permanent housing, and these are for families who in the first place did not have homes prior to the siege of Marawi. And we will also be providing the cost of the housing components for those who have land, but whose houses were destroyed as a result of the conflict,” the Palace spokesperson said.

He added that San Miguel Corporation has also committed to build 5,000 permanent housing in a 33-hectare lot made available by the local government unit.

Roque said President Duterte is set to turn over the first batch of 500 temporary housing units before Christmas.

The government officials also led on Wednesday the groundbreaking ceremony for a housing project intended for the faculty and employees of the Mindanao State University.

“The government through the HUDCC and Pag-Ibig and MSU will be constructing 1,000 housing units for MSU employees and a further 100 units for the executives of the university. This forms part of the overall mission to rebuild Marawi,” Roque said.

The government also committed that in the process of rebuilding Marawi, there would be regular and constant consultations with the stakeholders.

“We had also just come from the first ever dialogue with stake holders ‘no, where Secretary Del Rosario met with stakeholders, Ulamas, Sultans, civil society, women’s groups, academe in discussing the rebuilding of Marawi. There was a commitment on the part of Bangon Marawi, that in rebuilding Marawi, government will consider the religious beliefs and convictions of the residents of the Marawi,” Roque said.

Meanwhile, Del Rosario said that TFBM is currently focused on assisting returning evacuees while government agencies complete the PCNA and the subsequent comprehensive plan to rebuild Marawi.

“In the meantime, all our government agencies involved in Task Force Bangon Marawi will focus on initial recovery interventions, and this is what we call early recovery stage, and we will be assisting especially those who left Marawi City that upon their return, they will have something to work on,” he said.

Government officials said that more than 40,000 evacuees were already permitted to return to their homes in 17 barangays (villages) that were initially cleared by the AFP.

That number is expected to increase by the day as more areas are declared clear by the military.

The head of the TFBM said that upon returning, each family was given 17 days’ worth of food packs, a sack of rice and PHP 5,000.

“The food assistance will continue depending on the needs of the family upon the assessment and recommendation of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD),” De Rosario said.

The assistance will be provided to all returning families as they start rebuilding their lives back in the city.

Del Rosario said the government would also be providing livelihood programs as well as credit and loan facilities for returning traders and farmers.

An estimated 45 percent of the population of Marawi are traders while another 40 percent are farmers.

He said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has a program for traders to have easy access to credit while the Department of Agriculture (DA) is also providing micro-financing support to farmers.

“I think, PHP 5,000 to PHP 10,000. And they will be providing seedlings. DA personnel are already going to the barangays to determine the needs of our farmers,” Del Rosario said.

As for the most affected area, the term now used for the 200 – 250 hectare area that was “ground zero” or the “main battle area” comprising 24 barangays, Roque said the plan is to flatten the area and transform it into a modern district.

“The plan is, we will flatten all buildings in the most affected area, and we will build new infrastructures from two-lane highways to four-lane highways. We will have underground electric cables instead of the usual posts, and we will make a promenade in the Agus River which will become a prime tourist attraction,” Roque said.

Developers have estimated that it would take at least four years to flatten the area and build the new infrastructures.

On the legal front, Roque reported that a total of 37 cases  involving rebellion  and  violation of  other special penal laws had been filed in court against members of the Maute and those in conspiracy with them.

He said that his office is coordinating with the Justice Department’s special committee of public prosecutors formed by Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to prosecute individuals for violations of the International Humanitarian Law in connection with Marawi.

“I was informed that some of the cases that are being investigated now by our special panel of prosecutors with specialized training on IHL, include taking of hostages, wanton killing, kidnapping for ransom and cruel and inhumane treatment including cases of beheadings and recruitment of children as combatants,” Roque said.

He said all of these efforts show the people of Marawi that rebuilding their once-bustling city is a priority of President Duterte.

“To the residents of Marawi, sagot po kayo ni Presidente Duterte. Babangon po ang Marawi,” Roque said. (PNA)