Our bottomline:  Lanao del Sur and Marawi City in particular is far from recovery, with displacement still at a very high rate. To quote the most recent consolidated report of the Philippine Humanitarian Country Team (PHCT), the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has the highest number of people displaced by armed conflict, crime and violence in the Philippines, majority are from the Marawi conflict.

Two years after the Marawi siege and after billions of money poured into agencies, more than 66,000 displaced people are living in evacuation centers, host locations and transitory sites waiting for rehabilitation of the Most Affected Area to begin – with no food security and access to basic services.  These are the most vulnerable families at present as their tents are dilapidated and the aid support has been scant.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) estimates that 230,250 people have by now returned to the 72 Barangays in Marawi City that we original called safe Kambalingan (homecoming) areas. The community looks to the restoration of their businesses and livelihoods to meet their basic needs, including education and health requirements for their children.

Yet, even as many of them are struggling to survive, the affected community is also fighting for their rights to self-determination, refusing and resisting all attempts – covert or overt – to displace them from the land which belonged to their ancestors for centuries. The government’s Task Force Bangon Marawi has several times postponed plans to allow the return of families to these areas subject to the issuance of permits. The Government estimates up to 3 to 5 years time frame to reconstruct the former downtown, comprising of 24 Barangays.

Added to that is the burden of fighting a culture that has been embedded with deep corruption, like the rest of the country. This trail of corruption based on the Commission on Audit report has strongly affected the situation of the IDPs. Billions of government funds have been diverted, unutilized, or subject to corruption investigation.  Duyog Marawi is a lead convener in a movement that demands transparency and accountability of government funds. We have also supported bills in Congress for reparation and compensation of damages.

Before the end of this year, the government plans to relocate remaining occupants of recognized evacuation centres to transitory sites, but the sites are confronted with limited resources and capacity to support the number of people expected. While rebuilding road and bridge infrastructure are gaining momentum, the provision of food, shelter, health, water and sanitation, education and protection services to meet the immediate needs of the displaced remains limited. The Mindanao Humanitarian Team (MHT) proposes that displaced women, children, elderly and other vulnerable people require sustained humanitarian assistance including protection in their current locations until they can return home or achieve a secure and sustainable future.

Rehabilitation of schools, water systems, health infrastructure and income-generating activities remain a challenge. The most vulnerable segment of the community such as children, women, and senior citizens require to be targeted with programmes and projects to assist them in recovery.

Peace is still fragile, with pockets of gun fights and criminal incidents reported every now and then, most recently inside the Mindanao State University Main Campus.  Employment of youth in the productive sector, including agriculture, fisheries, and income-generating business, as well as peacebuilding and counter-terrorism is essential.

Duyog Marawi, through its staff and volunteers are who are Muslims and Christians, operates in the Triple Nexus of Humanitarian, Development and Peacebuilding. With grants from several church organizations around the world, mostly from the Caritas Family, we have partnered with 72 barangays in the city and around the lake to bridge the gaps and create sustainable communities. It is a long road ahead. We hope that the world continues to pay attention to Marawi.

Peace here will not just benefit Marawi, it will benefit the whole country.