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Restoration, rebuilding of Marawi underway

MARAWI City is not yet free of the Maute combatants who attacked Marawi City on May 23 with support from foreign fighters inspired by the Islamic State movement in the Middle East. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said there are still 30 to 40 holdouts in one part of the city.

But the government has already begun the work of rehabilitating the city, with the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) leading the cleanup efforts. Armed with brooms, grass cutters, bolos, and paintbrushes, some 80 troopers and policemen are now going through the ravaged streets of the city, removing the filth and patching up the battered walls, before the residents return to their homes in the city.

A special group of Maranao policemen was deployed in mosques and other religious sites, to ensure that the job is done without violating religious beliefs and practices.

At about the same time last week, the Mindanao State University (MSU) began its own cleanup under the Brigada Eskwela program to prepare it for the opening of classes on August 22. This too was a joint project of the AFP and the PNP together with the local city government. By fortuitous circumstance, two military officials whose men were in the
cleanup at MSU were themselves alumni of the university – Brig. Gen. Felicisimo Budiungan and Col. Allan Hambala.

Mayor Majul Gandamra cited the quick reopening of MSU. “MSU is hope – hope that everything will be back to normal someday,” he said. “We are also hoping that one day, downtown Marawi will also be on the same track toward normalcy.”

Some 250,000 Marawi residents were forced to leave their homes when the rebellion broke out in May and President Duterte immediately proclaimed martial law in all of Mindanao. The proclamation was challenged in the Supreme Court but the high court upheld the

proclamation and Congress voted to extend it to the end of his year.

The military has opted against mounting a massive operation to wipe out the Maute holdouts so as to avoid too many casualties, especially since the rebels continue to hold many hostages. The drive continues, street by street, building by building.

Even as the final stages of the fighting continue, the work of restoring Marawi City has begun in earnest with the deployment of cleanup crews in streets and – most especially – in the city’s mosques. The President has assured that P50 billion has been set aside to restore this center of Muslim culture in Mindanao.