Marawi residents to gov’t: Let us go home

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 30) — Displaced residents of Marawi decry being deprived of their right to go home, five months after the war in the city ended.

"It is high time for residents to see their homes, salvage what was left of their belongings and rebuild their houses,” the group Tindeg Ranao said in a statement, adding that the military has prohibited the return of residents in 24 barangays, the main battle areas. 

The military said ground zero needed to be cleared of explosives before residents could be let in.

Hundreds staged a protest on Friday, which Joint Task Force Ranao Deputy Commander Colonel Romeo Brawner said was "generally peaceful."

The residents also called for a “people-oriented rehabilitation” of war-torn Marawi, saying they were being “left out” in the government’s plans to rebuild their city.

Timeline: The Marawi crisis

Over 300,000 residents were displaced by heavy fighting between government forces and terrorists which began on May 23, 2017. The war ended in October that year with over 900 terrorists, 47 civilians and 165 government troops killed.

Houses and buildings were turned to rubble.

The residents, however, were “angered at reports that President Rodrigo Duterte would convert their communities into a military camp, a tourism hub and commercial center instead of rebuilding their houses,” Tindeg Ranao said.

The Ranaw Multi-Sectoral Movement opposed the government’s plan for a Marawi ecozone, an area for business where companies are given tax incentives.

“Mr. President, please put a stop to the proposed ecozone and military camp plans until we have been heard, until our dreams and aspirations, our cultural sensitivities and our faith find expression in the rebuilding of Marawi City, our home,” the group said in a message addressed to Duterte and posted on social media.

The group said the plan to establish an ecozone was presented to stakeholders in a forum last week but stressed that the residents were not consulted about it.

In January, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said an ecozone may help attract investors to set up processing plants for food and agribusiness, which would result in more jobs for Marawi residents.

READ: Marawi will rise as a modern city – housing czar

Task Force Bangon Marawi estimated that the cost of rehabilitating and rebuilding Marawi would amount to ₱51.64 billion.

The Palace said the Department of Social Welfare and Development had given over ₱300,000 to some 27,770 families who had returned to their homes as of March 20.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos and Ina Andolong contributed to this report.