Marawi rehab sends land prices soaring
While affected residents of Marawi City see the lack of housing as a problem, some landowners see it as an opportunity—to raise the price of their property.
Adoracion Navarro, undersecretary of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), said the assumed cost of land being offered to government planners by some Marawi landowners has risen 10 times the prevailing price.
“The previous market value was P500 per square meter (but) the asking price that reached us was P5,000 per square meter,” Navarro said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Friday, adding that “the speculative price was a result of the armed conflict” in Marawi last year that saw the city’s houses and buildings razed to the ground.
As part of Marawi’s rehabilitation and reconstruction, the government was looking for parcels of land that it can use to build housing for displaced residents.
For five months, government troops battled Islamic State-inspired extremists who laid siege to Marawi in May 2017, and flattened the city. President Duterte placed Marawi, and subsequently, the entire Mindanao island under martial law because of the armed conflict.
Eduardo del Rosario, chair of Task Force Bangon Marawi, said he himself discovered the land price hike when the interagency task force was double-checking the cost of land needed for its programs, projects and activities.
P17B for 24 barangays
Navarro said she was surprised that there were people who would take advantage of the crisis situation. “That’s why the government is being careful in ascertaining the amounts (needed) and even the locations of the proposed projects,” she said.
The total cost of the massive rehabilitation of Marawi City and nearby areas was estimated to reach P72 billion, with P17.2 billion set aside to cover the development of 24 barangays in the most affected areas.
Some P55 billion will be used to rehabilitate the rest of the city and nearby towns, with funding to come from government, private donors and official development assistance.
The review process for the proposed projects was 90 percent complete, and includes double-checking whether some projects were better being combined with others.
Navarro said that while land price speculation among some Marawi landowners was not widespread, it might be addressed with a strong statement by officials like Del Rosario.
“The market value depends on negotiations,” she said, adding that a pronouncement from an official that government won’t accept 10 times the former value of land “can be effective in reducing speculative activities.”
Del Rosario has assured that “no private land in the most affected area will be forcibly taken,” Task Force Bangon Marawi spokesperson Toby Purisima said.
1st anniversary nears
The rehabilitation of the war-torn city is said to be on track as the Marawi siege approaches its first anniversary on May 23, with the groundbreaking eyed for June.
“We’re still fine-tuning and finalizing the terms of the contract of the project development. Once this is done, we will continue with the Swiss Challenge,” said Purisima, referring to a form of public procurement where the government publishes an unsolicited bid or proposal, and invites third parties to match or exceed it.
Last December, the task force said proposals for the rehabilitation of Marawi would be subjected to the Swiss challenge, instead of the customary public bidding.
There is still no definite date for the Swiss challenge, although a tentative schedule has been set for the last week of May.
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