Marawi residents start visiting "ground zero"
Displaced residents in Marawi City due to five-month siege last year were allowed to visit their houses in the "ground zero" before the government starts the rehabilitation program in the area, Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said on Sunday.
Around 5,000 to 7,000 people were expected to enter Marawi starting April 1. Each sector from the most affected area could stay inside from 7am to 3pm for three days to check their houses and secure belongings that would still be useful for them.
Residents from Barangay Daguduban and Tolali, named as Sector 1, were the first one allowed to enter the ground zero.
Gandamra said each resident could be accompanied by up to seven relatives inside.
"What they did is, they submit listings of those residents living at the two barangays. Right now, before they enter, the list is being inspected and check," he said in a radio interview.
Those residents entering the area were being assisted by the local government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
According to Gandamra, security forces have temporarily suspended clearing operations for unexploded bombs and improvised explosive devices in the area to make way for the visits.
"Those areas being visited inside were already checked by the security forces. That's why they were not all allowed to enter at once. So this sector, I assumed, this was included in the cleared areas by security forces," he added.
The visitation would end on May 10 or until the residents of the 24 barangays were able to enter ground zero.
"This is the clamor of people that before the start of the reconstruction that they will be allowed to get inside and then see for themselves if their properties should be demolished, retained or fixed," he said.
He added the ground breaking for the rehabilitation of the devastated city might happen in May after the visitation.
He also said that around a thousand of temporary shelters were constructed. But he asked for understanding that all the evacuees could not be accommodated yet.
"We have to understand that with the magnitude of affected residents, we cannot simultaneously construct all the required temporary shelters," he explained.
He clarified that only those residents who have properties inside Marawi would be accommodated on the temporary shelters, but he assured that all those evacuees would receive help through Task Force Bangon Marawi program.
"We have to understand that we will give temporary shelters to those residents inside the ground zero, those who have house inside that was destroyed as a result of war," he said.
"We checked that some, who are currently staying in the evacuation center, are only working inside Marawi but they don't have house inside," he added. "That's the reason why we have a program. The government is willing to give support to those who want to go home to their municipalities."
More than 200,000 residents were displaced after the Maute-ISIS group attacked and occupied Marawi from May to October last year. Ella Dionisio/DMS