by Mario Casayuran
Senators led by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III expressed confidence yesterday that President Duterte would be able to rehabilitate war-torn Marawi City before his term ends in 2022.
“It is a matter of funding and prioritization. If there’s a will, there’s a way,” Pimentel said, noting that the support of the private sector would be a critical element in efforts to help the residents of Marawi recover from the armed conflict “by providing them with jobs and economic opportunities because while recovery is our initial objective, prosperity should be the ultimate goal. In this regard, the private sector can play a significant role.”
“With government forces getting close to resolving the conflict in Marawi city, we must now start planning for the rehabilitation of the city,” the Mindanao-born legislator said.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III, on the other hand, said the President’s promise to rebuild Marawi at a cost of P20 billion is more than enough.
Sotto, a member of the pro-Duterte majority bloc in the 24-member Senate, expressed hopes that the rehabilitation of Marawi would be completed before the President ends his term in 2022.
The P20 billion funding would be expended at P5 billion annually, he said.
ONLY FOR HOUSING
Sen. Gregorio B. Honasan II, chairman of the Senate national defense committee, said the promise to rebuild Marawi “depends on political will, a clear sense of national priorities and available funds.”
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian opined that the real root cause of extremism is poverty.
“In the short term, the government should rebuild brand new schools, universities, hospitals, all government facilities, roads and give out housing aid. P20 billion will only be good for housing aid,” the former mayor of Valenzuela city said.
“We need to inject more for the infrastructure. In the medium term, I propose to set up dedicated local economic and development center in Marawi and Cotabato city. Government should identify low hanging economic fruits that will jumpstart the local Marawi and ARMM economy. Investments and job creation will be the main goal of this center. The only way to prevent extremism is to make sure people have the basic necessities for their family,” he added
Even the minority bloc in the Senate supports the aspiration of President Duterte to bring Marawi back to its feet.
“We support the President’s desire to help Marawi City to recover from this tragic incident. The government can use a portion of the P15.7 billion in national risk reduction and management fund to properly capacitate government relief and long-term rehabilitation efforts,” Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said in a statement.
“However, in view of the considerable loss and damages brought about by the ongoing fight, we urge the President to exercise his power to realign funds in accordance with the recent Supreme Court decision on the use of savings,” he said.
He said Congress, for its part, can pass a supplemental budget authorizing the transfer of funds to augment the calamity and contingent funds.
“We can tap the intelligence funds amounting (to) P5.485 billion, some of which are sitting idly in agencies’ accounts, to fund intensified efforts for rehabilitation, repair and construction of severely damaged infrastructure, buildings and facilities, as well as for swift delivery of basic services to the people of Marawi,” Drilon said. (With a report from Hannah L. Torregoza)
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