By Jeoffrey Maitem
The United States set aside another U.S. $6.6 million (332.3 million pesos) to help Marawi residents recover from last year’s five-month battle between Islamic State-linked militants and government forces that left their southern Philippine city in ruins.
The funds, distributed through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will go to programs aimed at helping people get back to work after the fighting left more than 1,000 combatants and civilians dead and the local economy in tatters. The latest U.S. aid infusion by the long-time Philippine defense treaty ally brings the total contribution to Marawi to $20.9 million (1 billion pesos).
“This new funding will support some of the most vulnerable populations affected by the conflict,” U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim said.
“The United States is deeply committed to supporting our friend and ally in long-term recovery efforts to ensure a brighter and more peaceful future for the people of Mindanao,” he said.
Previously, the U.S. sent military personnel to Marawi to help in intelligence efforts when Filipino government troops were fighting IS-linked forces who were backed by foreigners in the battle, which began on May 23 and ended in late October.
Regional social welfare director Bai Zorahayda Taha said nearly half of the 200,000 Marawi residents displaced by the fighting had returned since the government declared the city liberated from the militants.
“But residents in the main battle areas cannot return yet as the military continues their clearing missions for bombs,” Taha said.
At the same time, Taha said residents covered by the country’s “conditional cash transfer program” need not worry about losing their monthly stipend for failing to meet conditions set by the program.
It requires children to stay in school and maintain class attendance of at least 85 percent each month. Pregnant women are required to avail pre- and post-natal care and delivery must be assisted by skilled health personnel, while parents are mandated to take “family development sessions.”
“This means that even if they are not attending schools or not going to health clinics, or not even attending the family development sessions, they will be receiving their monthly grants,” she said.
The USAID’s early assistance to Marawi involved restoring access to water and distributing much-needed desks to schools where displaced students were enrolled. The agency also helped set up health clinics to provide health services in evacuation camps.
Mark Navales in Cotabato City, Philippines, contributed to this report.