By CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS
of Mindanews .
MARAWI City — Majed Rascal, whose family’s Norhana Rascal Textile in the Padian sold textile for 26 years, laments their losses.
“We saved up for this for years, for decades… Not a single cloth was left behind. Yet there is no trace of fire,” said Rascal.
The store selling rice and other merchandise owned by Hedjarah Alip Bacarat, 71, was even older at 43 years when the “war” broke out last year. What was once a store made of wood in 1964 had, over the years, evolved into the three-door Bacarat Building 2. A few meters away, at the opposite corner, stood Bacarat Building 1 where they lived until the “war” forced them to leave on May 24, 2017, and seek refuge in their relatives’ homes in Cagayan de Oro.
Bacarat, mother of 15, insisted on coming to Marawi, even if on wheelchair, to see what happened. “She really wanted to see what has happened to what they had worked hard for, even if they’re gone. It’s painful because Bacarat Buildings 1 and 2 were gone in an instant,” her daughter Jehan Pangcoga said.
Aside from salvaging whatever can be salvaged from what used to be their homes, residents and storeowners of “Ground Zero” were busy putting up makeshift signages on iron sheets, tarpaulin, plywood, scrap wood, on the walls or posts.
On Tuesday last week, the Bacarats painted on a salvaged iron sheet and installed it on the facade but the following day, a tarpaulin was placed over the iron sheet giving notice to everyone: “No trespassing. Private Property of…”
The next time they can return to the area to rebuild their homes and stores would be “most likely on first quarter 2020,” Housing Secretary and concurrent TFBM chair Eduardo del Rosario said in early April.
Del Rosario told a press briefing in Malacanang last month that their timeline for the debris clearing and site development, which includes the road network and the underground utilities for water, electricity and telecommunications, is “about 18 months” from the groundbreaking in June.
Groundbreaking for the “Ground Zero” development plan, if the contract is awarded to developers by May 31, would be on June 7, he said. In May 12, he said the groundbreaking would be moved to a date after the Ramadan.
The month-long Ramadan is expected to begin on May 15.
In his visit to Marawi in May 11, President Duterte assured that only Meranaws would benefit from the rehabilitation.
“I assure you, those who are not Meranaws will not benefit from the rehab. We will return that to you. We don’t aim for anything else,” he said.
Duterte asked for “a little time” to rehabilitate.
He vowed to give priority to the poor Meranaws, adding that houses would go to those who have been rendered homeless.
He said once the debris is cleared, “we will return the land to whoever owns it.”
Duterte, whose grandmother was a Meranaw, said he would place government lands under land reform. “I will break it up into lands at i-land reform ko, ibigay ko sa inyo… And I will commit to you, as a Meranaw, I will commit to you now na magbuhos ako ng tulong, mga tractor, fertilizer pati seedlings.”
At present, there is no enabling law as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) had expired and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms had also expired on June 30, 2014.
A substantial part of Marawi City is classified as a military reservation, according to a Proclamation issued by the late President Elpidio Quirino in 1953. Meranaws contend they have pre-existing rights as Marawi is their ancestral home.
Del Rosario earlier said “Ground Zero” does not fall within the military reservation. (carolyn o. arguillas of mindanews)