Two years since the siege of Marawi from May to October 2017, much of the predominantly Muslim city located in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao still stands in ruins while thousands of residents remain displaced.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas, who represents marginalized women in the Philippine Congress, shares photos of her visit to Marawi City from March 21, 2019, in a public Facebook post. She observes:
Sa laki ng pinsala ni wala halos clearing na nagawa. Mga binombang bahay at establishments plaza simbahan mosque sirang sira ang lahat. Malayong malayo sa richness at vibrant na lugar noon.
Despite the scale of the destruction, almost no clearing has been done yet. Bombed homes and establishments, plazas, churches, and mosques — everything is destroyed. A far cry from the richness and vibrancy of the place before the siege.
Marawi City was leveled in five months of intense urban warfare, artillery bombardment and air strikes by government troops that attempted to quell a Moro extremist group who occupied the city and fought back after the military tried to arrest its leaders.
The Marawi attack by the Maute extremist group was used to justify Duterte’s imposition of martial law on the entire island of Mindanao in order to restore public security and ensure progress. Two years on, Marawi residents are still waiting to return to their homes and rebuild their lives.
The Philippine military’s siege forced over 100,000 residents to flee from their homes to escape the fighting. A UN report said about 66,000 remain displaced in cramped evacuation centers or in their relatives’ homes in different parts of the country.
Mindanao used to have a predominantly Muslim population. The struggle for self-determination of Muslims in Mindanao has been a protracted struggle for many decades, with some groups waging an armed challenge against the Philippine government. So far, peace agreements have succeeded in getting the support of big rebel groups to work for an autonomous set-up. But some groups like the Maute have continued to push for the establishment of a separate Islamic state.
During and even after the siege, access to Marawi has been restricted. Only some media groups, local officials, and select residents were allowed to enter the city. The photos below provide a rare glimpse of the extent of destruction in the city, the hardships faced by displaced residents, and the enormous challenge of rebuilding the community.
The situation of displaced residents
The visit conducted by Brosas as a member of Congress confirmed earlier reports of the deteriorating situation of residents in evacuation centers. Brosas shares:
Nasilip din ang ilan sa mga bakwit area. Napakahirap ng kalagayan nila. Matapos ang 2 taon ang mga lumang tents ay nagdeteriorate na. Butas butas na napakainit pa. Kawawa ang kalagayan ng mga pamilya at mga bata. Walang tubig o malayo ang igiban. At may balita pang titigil na ng tuluyan ang rasyon ng tubig. Walang kuryente. May solar na naitulong ang kasama ko kaya may kaunting ilaw.
Got a glimpse of the refugee areas. Their condition is very hard. After two years the old tents have deteriorated already. They are not only full of holes but also very hot to stay in. The situation of families and children is very poor. There is no water and water sources are far. And there is even news that water rationing would be stopped indefinitely. There is no electricity. Our colleagues helped setup solar power so there is some light.
The central business district – called “ground zero” – is the most devastated area of Marawi City. Its residents have yet to be allowed to return to their properties, whose rebuilding President Rodrigo Duterte declared would be made at their own expense.
The Duterte government has rejected accusations that it is not doing anything, with the Task Force Bangon Marawi charged with rebuilding the city saying perceived delays can be credited to the many technical protocols involved for clearing operations as well as consultations with residents.
Below are more photos of the evacuation centers in Marawi: