The lawyer claims that 4 Marawi villages were “sequestered” by the government; The mayor says “not true”

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KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / July 10) – A lawyer from Marawi says at least four villages – straddling around 16 hectares – in the city’s “Ground Zero” have been “sequestered” by the government to accommodate several construction projects. construction aimed at restoring the former glory of the city, an allegation according to the mayor is “not true”.

Residents collect what is left of their homes and commercial buildings in “Ground Zero” in the town of Marawi. MindaNews archive photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Lawyer Ibrahim Mimbalawag, a resident of Marawi, said landowners and residents apparently could no longer return to the four villages as the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the Marawi local government unit affected them infrastructure projects aimed at rehabilitating the country’s only Islamic city.

“Haharangin namin ito (We will block this)…. We are going to file a lawsuit in court, ”Mimbalawag said on Friday in“ Alerto Bangsamoro, ”a radio program broadcast on the Oblate-owned DXMS Radyo Bida in the town of Cotabato.

He identified the barangays as Datu sa Dansalan, Dansalan, Sabala Amanao and Datu Naga.

In a previous social media post, Mimbalawag said his family found out that landowners and residents of the four villages could not return to the worst affected area (MAA, another name for Marawi’s Ground Zero) after his sister tried to pay the property tax for their land located in Barangay Datu sa Dansalan.

“To her surprise and dismay, she was informed by the assessor’s office that they could no longer collect taxes because our private lands inside the MAA were covered by government rehabilitation projects.” , he wrote.

On July 1, 2021, Mimbalawag said he traveled with his mother and sister to Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) to clarify the matter, but was referred to the NHA and LGU Marawi. .

The Bangon Marawi task force meets the residents of “Ground Zero”. MindaNews archive photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

They went to the NHA office in the city and were told that the four villages would be used for the construction of government rehabilitation projects such as the convention center, the grand padian (market) and the promenade, among others. , he added.

Mimbalawag said he was shocked when a NHA staff member told him that private landowners and residents of the four villages can no longer return to their titled lots to rebuild their homes as government rehabilitation projects will be built in these villages.

During Friday’s radio guest, the lawyer called on the NHA and LGU in Marawi to build the rehabilitation projects on the city’s vacant lots and allow landowners and legitimate residents to return and reside. reconstruct their properties in the MAA.

The mayor of Marawi, Majul Gandamra, has denied Mimbalawag’s allegations. In a telephone interview on Saturday, he denied that the four villages had been kidnapped. He said barangay halls, health centers and a madrasah were being built in each village. He added that residents of these four villages, like the rest of the 24 villages in Ground Zero, can return to rebuild their homes after applying for a building permit.

Gandamra said the government projects mentioned by Mimbalawag, including the Grand Padian (market), convention and sports center, are under construction in the at least 10 hectare reclamation area that the government owns. He said it was the site of the market, city mall and ice cream factory before the siege.

He explained that before the siege, some people were able to build private structures in the recovery area because “the previous administrations tolerated them”. He said the city government is undertaking reforms, including ensuring the issuance of title deeds, payment of property taxes, application for business permits and building permits. Jorge Golle, quality control manager at International Alert Philippines, one of the sponsors of the “Alerto Bangsamoro” radio program, said there was an apparent lack of intensive public consultation by the government with landowners.

“This is the reason why the problem has worsened,” he said, noting that several residents have land titles to prove ownership.

Golle said the four villages are located along the lake and served as the “last battleground” between the military and Islamic militants during the five-month war four years ago.

He noted that the four villages have been cleaned up and that various construction projects are underway in the area, which has been designated, according to locals, as the “center of local / national government”.

TFBM chairman Eduardo del Rosario has repeatedly denied that there has been a lack of consultation in the rehabilitation of Marawi.

The chairman of the Bangon Marawi task force, Eduardo del Rosario, becomes moved after a deluge of complaints from residents. MindaNews archive photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

He had also previously assured that “titled and untitled properties occupied by residents will be returned to them by the government.”

TFBM profiles all land holdings within the MAA to identify legitimate owners and the boundaries of each property, according to a report posted on the Bangon Marawi website in April 2019.

In a virtual press conference on July 8, Del Rosario said that a year after construction of public infrastructure began in July 2020, “the completion rate is around 68%.”

The TFBM, which is made up of 56 government agencies, “remains on track and will be virtually completed by December 2021 and will be fully completed under the tenure of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.” But Jalilah Sapiin, member of Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, pointed out that land rights have so far become a major contentious issue in the rehabilitation of Marawi.

“The problem got worse because from the start it was not resolved. There are discrepancies in the NHA and LGU data, ”she said.

Sapiin said MAA residents continue to hope to return and rebuild their properties four years after their displacement.

As of January 2021, 17,555 families or 87,775 people were still displaced due to the siege of Marawi in May 2017, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Sapiin called on the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to help address the issue of landowners and residents in Marawi, the capital of Lanao. del Sur, one of the five provinces of the Bangsamoro region.

In 2017, at least 350,000 civilians were uprooted after Islamic State-aligned Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups seized Marawi in an attempt to establish it as a “wilaya” or Islamic state. in Southeast Asia.

The five-month urban war destroyed the core of Marawi, now known as the MAA, and claimed the army’s death toll of some 1,100, mostly Islamist militants.

It was estimated that the rehabilitation of Marawi would cost the government 75 billion pesos. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews with a report by Carolyn O. Arguillas)

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