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Hundreds of residents barred from entering Marawi’s ground zero

Manila: Hundreds of Filipino-Muslims rejected the government’s plan to put up a military camp in a southern city that was damaged by a five-month long clash between government forces and Daesh-inspired foreign and Filipino-Muslim terror groups starting May 2017, sources said.

“Hundreds of residents who gathered at the marker of the Kilometer Zero near Marawi City were blocked near the City Hall. After negotiations, they were allowed to proceed to a limited portion of Ground Zero, for a peace rally, to air their views about the rehabilitation of Marawi City,” Lt. Col. Jason Jumawan, Army commanding officer said in a radio interview.

Abdul Hamidullah Atar, sultan of Marawi, said in another radio interview, “The people are against the building of a military camp in Marawi City. The indigenous people want to participate in Marawi’s rehabilitation. Evacuees want to return home, rebuild their properties and their lives.”

“We wanted to offer prayers for those who were killed inside ground zero,” said Atar when talking about the peace rally. Residents are required to seek permission from local government units before they can go to the main battle area between government forces and the Daesh-inspired groups in Marawi City, he complained.

Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), said the government will have to resolve the demands of the Marawi residents.

But the HUDCC chief has already rejected the residents’ call to stop the building a military camp in Marawi, Samira Gutoc, organiser of civilian group Ranao Rescue Team, complained on TV.

“Decision-making has to be people-led. An assembly of Marawi City residents must be recognised, not only for consultations on government plans, but for participation in the making of rehabilitation plans for Marawi City,” said Gutoc.

“The executive order of President Rodrigo Duterte that created Task Force Bangon Marawi has to be amended,” said Gutic, adding that the government wanted mandatory membership of (private) civilian leaders to the government’s task force for rehabilitation.

Civilian and non-government groups and their leaders have submitted their position paper to the Senate, “for them to be heard,” said Gutuc, adding they have presented plans of building riverside parks and promenades in ground zero where Marawi’s town center was once located.

They do not consider the building of a military camp in Marawi City a priority.

In a statement that was read at the peace rally on Friday, Ranaw Multi-Sectoral Movement, a civilian group, said, “Mr. President, please put a stop to the proposed ecozone and military camp plans until we have been heard, until our dreams and aspirations, our cultural sensitivities and our faith find expression in the rebuilding of Marawi City, our home. This is the cry of our people. This is the cry of Marawi,”

“Those who came to present the plan (to us) dismissed our comments, recommendations, and protestations as though we knew nothing and have no business in rebuilding our very own city,” said Ranao’s statement, copies of which reached reporters in Manila also on Friday.

Various funding agencies have offered assistance for the rebuilding of Marawi City.

Congress has allowed Duterte’s request for the extension of martial law in Marawi to stop the return of foreign and Filipino-Muslim terror Daesh-inspired groups. Duterte said the terror groups wanted to use the southern Philippines as a platform for expansion in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

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