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Marawi rehab delay worsens poverty

By: Ben de Vera, Jigger Jerusalem - Inquirer.net December 08,2019 - 07:39 AM

The delay in the rebuilding of war-torn Marawi City has partly caused a slight increase in poverty in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the lone region where poverty incidence rose although the nationwide rate dropped from 17.9 percent in 2015 to 12.1 percent in 2018, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) admitted on Friday.

Marawi residents have become so frustrated with the situation that they filed a class suit against government officials who prevented them from returning to the city to rebuild their homes and resume their lives that were disrupted by the five-month siege by local terrorists in 2017.

Lawyer Salic Dumarpa, chair of the Go Right Foundation, said Marawi residents’ “work, business, livelihood and other source of income have been seriously affected” because of their continuing displacement. Their children have also been forced to skip school.

Last year, poverty inched up from 53.3 percent in 2015 to 53.6 percent in the ARMM. The region also has the three poorest provinces in the Philippines: Basilan, Sulu and Lanao del Sur, which includes Marawi as its capital.

“One reason is the higher food prices there. Remember, that’s where rice prices reached P70 per kilo. And another is persistent armed conflict — the Marawi incident is one of them. But even after we’ve won in the Marawi conflict, there are still persistent local conflicts because of the presence of armed groups there,” Neda Undersecretary Adoracion Navarro explained.

Reports of “ghost” beneficiaries of the government’s cash transfer programs also aggravated the situation.

Navarro urged government officials to “ensure that these programs are properly monitored so that there are no ghost beneficiaries.”

The government allotted P5.1 billion for the Marawi Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program in the 2018 national budget and given a validity of two years but by the end of November, only P871.7 million was released, according to the Department of Budget and Management.

The appropriation of the unreleased funds, amounting to P4.2 billion, will lapse unless they are disbursed in December.

Meanwhile, close to 400 displaced Marawi residents filed a class suit against Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chair of Task Force Bangon Marawi, and Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra before the Marawi Regional Trial Court on Dec. 4.

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