Bishop Edwin Dela Peña of Marawi in the southern Philippines welcomed the relocation of families in the city who were displaced by the 2017 shooting war that affected close to half a million people and killed at least a thousand others.
“Today is another milestone for our parishioners at St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish because after almost five years of living as ‘bakwit’ or [internally displaced people] on the fringes … they have now been relocated and are now safely settled,” said the prelate in an interview over Radio Veritas 846.
Bishop Dela Peña said the relocation of the people, especially those from the “ground zero” of the conflict, has become a “blessing,” as the city celebrates the feast of its patron, Mary, Help of Christians, on May 24.
The Catholic Cathedral of Marawi was one of the first targets of extremist groups that laid siege on the city on May 17, 2017.
At least two civil society groups, however, said the reconstruction of the city of Marawi following the 2017 siege has been a “dismal failure.”
The groups Reclaiming Marawi Movement and the Marawi Advocacy accompaniment said the efforts exerted by the national government, through the Task Force Bangon (Rise) Marawi, to rebuild the city has been wanting.
The city marks the fifth anniversary of the so-called Marawi siege that displaced millions of people and killed about a thousand others on Monday, May 23.
In a statement, Task Force Bangon Marawi said the rehabilitation efforts have remained on track and will be completed as promised before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte ends next month.
The civil society groups, however, said the government has “backtracked on its promises and failed at consulting relevant stakeholders on implementing the programs of the rehabilitation.”
“Until now, hundreds of [internally displaced people] remain in temporary shelter communities,” said the groups.
They said the crisis of prolonged displacement still puts many lives at risk and have deprived the people of their rights as human beings. They said that amid the rehabilitation efforts the voices of affected people remain unheard.
“Although public facilities for the Meranaws were rebuilt, like the barangay complex, schools and hospital, the immediate concern of the IDPs of returning to their homes remain unresolved,” said the groups.
They said displaced people continue to live under “extremely difficult situations” since May 2017.
“There are still unmet needs and issues while they wallow in the camps, such as lack of food and livelihood, poor sanitation and hygiene conditions,” said the groups, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation.
The civil society groups said that as of March 2022, about 17,067 families or 85,335 individuals from the so-called most affected areas in Marawi remain displaced in various locations. – with a report from Jigger Jerusalem