Senators back Duterte’s vow to rebuild Marawi
Senators expressed on Wednesday their support for President Duterte’s commitment to rebuild Marawi City with some suggesting that Congress pass a supplemental budget authorizing the transfer of funds to augment the calamity and contingent kitty.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the goal to restore Marawi back to its old glory, as promised by Mr. Duterte, was “a matter of funding and prioritization.” “If there’s a will, there’s a way,” he told reporters in a text message.
Senate minority floor leader Franklin Drilon said the government can use a portion of the P15.7 billion in the national risk reduction and management fund to properly make the government capable in its relief and long-term rehabilitation efforts in Marawi City.
“We support President Duterte’s desire to help Marawi City to recover from this tragic incident,” he said.
But he urged Mr. Duterte to exercise his power to realign funds in accordance with the recent Supreme Court decision on the use of savings in light of the extensive loss and damages brought about by the continued fighting between government forces and the Maute terrorist group that swore allegiance to the Islamic State.
For its part, the Congress can pass a supplemental budget authorizing the transfer of money to augment the calamity and contingent funds, said Drilon.
He also suggested that Congress tap the P5.485 billion worth of intelligence funds—some of which were just “sitting idly” in government agencies’ accounts—in order to bankroll intensified efforts for rehabilitation, repair and the construction of critically damaged infrastructure, buildings and facilities.
This will also allow for the speedy delivery of basic services to Marawi residents, he said.
“The President’s pledge of P20 billion is a good start to rebuild Marawi City and its environs,” said Sen. Sonny Angara. He said Congress would certainly extend whatever appropriations or budgetary support that may be necessary to rebuild the city.
For his part, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said P20 billion will only be enough for housing assistance. “We need to inject more for the infrastructure,” he said.
Gatchalian also said that along with rebuilding the city, the government must also focus on efforts addressing poverty, which he said was the real root cause of Islamic extremism. Citing government data, he said 60 percent of Marawi’s population are poor, making the city the poorest in the country.
“In the short term, the government should build new schools, universities, hospitals, all government facilities, roads and give out housing aid,” he said.
He also proposed setting up a dedicated local economic and development center in Marawi and Cotabato City, where investments and job creation will be the main objective. “The only way to prevent extremism is to make sure people have the basic necessities for their family,” he added. JE
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