By Froilan Gallardo
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) called Friday on the Philippines to make a serious effort to rebuild and rehabilitate Marawi, where a large section remains uninhabitable nearly three months after the military freed the southern city from Islamic State-backed militants.
While the Philippine economy was expected to keep growing overall in 2018, the status of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of war-shattered Marawi could affect the upward trend, Takehiko Nagao, president of the Manila-based multilateral lending agency, told reporters.
Nagao said ADB was worried about Marawi, where the government has not allowed all of its 200,000 people to return from evacuation camps as assessment studies were being conducted and troops were clearing the city of booby traps left behind by the militants.
“Now (is) the time to make a serious effort for speedy reconstruction and rehabilitation,” of the city, Nagao said, adding that the lender was sending advisers and consultants to the ground to assess sectors where help was needed most.
Shortly after the government declared the five-month battle of Marawi over in October, ADB pledged more than U.S. $5 million (252 million pesos) toward assessing the needs of the once prosperous city to help it get back on its feet.
The Philippine government earlier chose ADB as the lead foreign donor to help rebuild the city. Other financial institutions including the World Bank pledged support.
Nagao did not disclose more details about the upcoming trip of advisers to Marawi.
Meanwhile, Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque said interventions from outside agencies in Marawi were ongoing and that the rehabilitation timetable was on track.
He said the state had provided skills training to about 2,600 people who were displaced by the fighting to help them find jobs.
Those who remain in the evacuation camps also underwent stress debriefings and psycho-social interventions, he said.
A joint civilian and military task force “intends to clear Marawi of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] ahead of schedule that includes mines, booby traps and similar hazards to government and non-government workers equally keen with the military on ensuring the safety of personnel reconstructing Marawi,” Roque said.
“We appeal to the patience of our brothers and sisters, residents of those residing in the city their willing cooperation will immensely help,” he said.
More than 1,000 militants allied with the Islamic State, soldiers and civilians were killed in the battle, the biggest security challenge so far faced by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Felipe Villamor in Manila contributed to this report.