Army engineers help UN-Habitat build homes for Marawi IDPs

Three years after leaving their house in Barangay Wawalayan Marinaut, a village inside the area most affected by the siege in Marawi City, and almost a year of living in a transitory shelter, the family of couple Janny and Sittie Binasing is excited to transfer to a permanent home.

BUILDING HOMES. The 55th Army Engineer Brigade prepares heavy equipment to be used in constructing permanent shelters for Marawi siege victims. In partnership with the UN-Habitat, the Army unit is helping build the homes for the families displaced by the siege in 2017. (PNA photo by Divina M. Suson)
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Sittie said the fulfillment of the government’s promise to give them a permanent housing unit is one of the family’s most awaited moments.

“From there, we can be comfortable, I know we can take off and start anew. Before the siege, we knew that the lot we lived in was not ours. We knew that we are living there informally but we have no choice because we have nowhere to go,” Janny said.

Before the Marawi siege, the family had a store that sold dresses, clothes and malong.

“We regularly went to Manila to buy items that we sold in Marawi. Our life before the siege was very comfortable. When the siege happened, all of those were gone,” Janny said.

The family tried but failed to revive their business while staying in Area 4 of the transitory site in Barangay Sagonsongan.

With the promise of being given a permanent shelter where they can live with their five children, the couple said there seems to be a new dawn waiting for them.

“Ang sa akin lang, sana walang magpapaalis sa amin dito, sana walang manggugulo kasi nakaka-trauma na ang mamuhay na magulo, may barilan. Hindi ko pa makalimutan ang nangyari sa amin noong siege (All I am praying for is that no one will drive us away from here, no one will harass us here because it is so traumatic to live in a chaotic community, when there is fighting. I still cannot forget what happened to us during the siege),” Sittie said.

The Binasing household is one of the 250 families who were chosen through a raffle to own a permanent shelter inside the 70-hectare land acquired by the National Housing Authority (NHA) in Barangay Kilala, Marawi City.

The government is constructing 1,500 permanent houses for the families who lost their home in the ground zero, referred to by the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) as the most affected area (MAA).

In a follow-up interview on Saturday, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra said these families used to live in the six-meter easement from the Agus River and inside the 20-meter reclamation area of Lake Lanao.

“These families can no longer go back to their place because the government has declared it ‘danger zone’ and ‘no build zone’,” Gandamra said.

Of the 1,500 units, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) will build 250 through the financial support from the government of Japan.

Of the 250 units, 50 will be constructed by the 55th Army Engineer Brigade using its manpower and construction equipment.

Each shelter is a one-story concrete structure to be constructed on a 90-square meter lot, with a total floor area of 46 square meters. It will include a toilet and kitchen and complete with electrical and plumbing system.

Two hundred units will be constructed by UN-Habitat’s builder-partner, Alay Balay Construction Company.

Engineer Vicente Bañares, president of Alay Balay, said all of the 250 units will be built using the steel frame technology with concrete infill, which is “four times stronger than hollow blocks”, and will be finished in 16 days.

A conventional house that uses hollow blocks is done in 28 days, according to Bañares.

Workers scramble to finish some 50 units of permanent shelter in Barangay Gadongan, Marawi City, a project of UN-Habitat for the Marawi Siege-displaced families. (PNA photo by Divina M. Suson)

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On Thursday, July 23, the UN-Habitat and the 55th Army Engineer Brigade signed an agreement for the housing project.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command, said through this project, the AFP would like to tell the public that the organization works not only to fight against the enemies of the government but also for civil military operations.

“We give more premiums on our operations other than war and that is the civil military operations. This (project) is one of the manifestations that your soldiers are not only for war but also for development,” said Sobejana, who went to Marawi for the signing of memorandum of agreement with the UN-Habitat.

The UN-Habitat has three other permanent housing locations in Marawi City aside from the one in Barangay Kilala. These are in the villages of Dulay Proper, Dulay West and Barangay Gadongan.

In Dulay Proper, the site development was started by the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC), which acquired the land, but is currently on hold due to the pandemic. UN-Habitat targeted to build 409 shelter units in the area.

In Barangay Gadongan, 50 units are targeted to be constructed in partnership with the provincial government of Lanao del Sur. The NHA acquired the land. As of this posting, 22 units are undergoing construction.

In Dulay West, 109 units are targeted to be constructed. Forty-five are undergoing construction at the site acquired by the SHFC.

Warren Ubongen, project manager of UB-Habitat, said the project is part of the organization’s “Rebuilding Marawi through Shelter and Livelihood Project” which was started after the 2017 Marawi siege.

“Given the challenging post-siege context of Marawi City, UN-Habitat has been exerting effort to respond to the clamor of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) for permanent shelter,” Ubongen said.

“The homeowners associations under the Rebuilding Marawi Project had shown patience amidst all the challenges that the project face but also they have been actively working with UN-Habitat to find solution on how we can overcome the various challenges,” he added.

While actual shelter construction has just started to take off, the livelihood component of the Rebuilding Marawi Project is also making its significant contribution in restoring the economy of Marawi City with 31 cooperatives engaging in various enterprises and businesses including transport service, water refilling station, printing shop, groceries and rice wholesale and retailing.

Ubongen said access to capital for individual or group income-generating projects is also being provided through the Islamic Micro-Finance System. (PNA)

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