PRESIDENT Duterte on Monday night said issues about land titles and ownership and the clearing of mines had contributed to long rehabilitation efforts in war-torn Marawi City.
The President, on the heels of the third anniversary of the liberation of Marawi from local terrorists, renewed the commitment of government to rehabilitate the city.
“The money is there. Do not worry. And we will continue to spend until such time that Marawi is rebuilt to its former glory. It might take – you know, it’s not easy to do that but it might take some time before we can really reach the ideal place that you’d call home,” the President said during his weekly “Talk to the People” address.
Duterte said rehab work in Marawi was slowed down by many challenges, like the clearing of explosives and mines to ensure the safety of everyone who would be involved in the projects and the residents returning to their homes.
He added there were some properties and lands with multiple claimants.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council Chairman Secretary Eduardo del Rosario had reported that the Marawi rehabilitation project remains on track despite the complaints of some people that it had been slow.
Roque said the construction of many public horizontal and vertical infrastructures – like road networks, public market, public schools, barangay halls, fire station, marine outpost, tourist police unit, a peace memorial, a school of living tradition, the Marawi museum, and mosques – are continuing in areas identified as most affected.
He said the target completion of the projects is December 2021.
Amid criticisms that Marawi had not truly been liberated, Duterte said it had been freed from the clutches of the Maute group and supporters of the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, four Army troopers were conferred the Distinguished Conduct Star (DCS), the highest military decoration in combat, for “conspicuous courage and gallantry in action” during the campaign against the Maute Group in Marawi City three years ago.
Armed Forces chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay, representing President Duterte, awarded the medals on Monday night in Camp Aguinaldo to Col. Jose Jesus Luntok, Capt. Arnel Lozada, 2Lt. George Francisco, and S/Sgt Roland Saludes.
Luntok, who commanded the elite 4th Scout Ranger Battalion during the Marawi siege which broke out on May 23 and ended October 17, was cited for his “exemplary combat leadership” which contributed to the rescue of 32 civilian hostages, killing of 73 Maute members, capture of three other enemies, and recovery of 144 firearms during the conflict.
Lozada, then the commander of the Charlie Company of the 15th Infantry Battalion, was credited for the rescue of 36 civilians, extrication of wounded troops, capture of Maute strongholds and recovery of 34 firearms in clashes with the Maute members from May to June 2017.
Francisco, then the commander of a sniper platoon of the elite 6th Light Reaction Company of the Light Reaction Regiment, was cited for his “extraordinary courage and ingenuity in actual combat” during a May 14, 2017 operation that led to the rescue of a hostage, killing of three enemies, and recovery of two firearms.
Saludes figured in series of clashes against 70 Maute members from May 27 to June 3, 2017 that resulted in the rescue of 15 hostages, killing of 10 Maute members, and recovery of eight firearms.
Given the Order of Lapu-Lapu Rank of Kamagi were Brig. Gen. Fabian Pedregosa and Col. Randy Pascua while Dr. Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay was conferred the Order of Lapu-Lapu Rank of Magalong.
Nine soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. Generoso Ponio and Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., were given the AFP Chief of Staff Commendation Medal in recognition of their “extraordinary acts of service and exceptional contributions” during the conflict.
A similar commendation medal was also given to the 55th Engineering Brigade for engineer support operation that led to various socio-economic achievements in the city.
Conferred with the Wounded Personnel Medal were Corporals Edison Caturan and Johnson Federizon, then members of the Special Forces Operations Class 135-16. – Victor Reyes