Anti-China sentiment rises from the ashes of Marawi
Anti-China sentiment rises from the ashes of Marawihttp://www.atimes.com/article/anti-china-sentiment-rises-ashes-marawi//
Tempers are boiling in the war-torn Philippine city of Marawi as locals fume over the potential a Chinese-led consortium will rebuild their terrorism-wrecked neighborhoods without their consultation or agreement. The final decision will be made next month, though many locals believe the fix is in for the Chinese bid.
On April 1, displaced residents of the city’s main central battle
ground were allowed by the military to visit their houses. Many were
shocked by the devastation caused by the five-month battle between
Filipino security forces and Islamic State-aligned fighters.
More than five months after the military declared victory in Marawi, the city’s 250 hectare “ground zero”, straddling 24 villages with an estimated population of 11,000 families, is turning into a new cauldron of discontent. First targeted by international terrorists, locals’ resentment is now shifting toward China.
Days before ground zero residents were allowed to visit their houses, thousands of displaced residents staged a prayer and protest rally in the embattled city castigating the China-led rehabilitation plan believed to be backed by the government.
Retired military general Eduardo del Rosario, the government’s
housing czar and chairperson of the inter-government agency Task Force
Bangon (Rise) Marawi, earlier said it had chosen the Bagong Marawi
Consortium to rebuild the ruined city on the southern island of
The government has estimated the rebuild will cost over 51 billion pesos (US$1 billion).
Five Chinese firms, led by China State Construction Engineering Corp Ltd, Anhui Huali Construction Group Company, China Geo-Engineering Corp, TBEA Company and Shandong Jinyuan Homes Industry Development Co Ltd, make up the consortium.
Their Filipino partners are Future Homes Philippines Inc, A Brown Company Inc, H S Pow Construction and Development, and SDW Realty & Development Inc.
China State Construction Engineering is among Forbes’ top regarded global companies, with a market capitalization of US$43.2 billion as of May last year. President Rodrigo Duterte said that his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping gave him a US$79.5 million grant to help rebuild Marawi after a meeting earlier this month in Beijing.
Del Rosario has maintained that his task force held public
consultations through a local Marawi government unit on its
rehabilitation plans. The devastated area will see reconstruction of a
lakeside promenade, economic zone, cultural and convention centers,
resorts and hotels, among other structures.
In February, Duterte issued a directive suspending bidding on the rehabilitation contracts after designating a so-called “Swiss Challenge”, a scheme where private groups submit unsolicited proposals to the government, which after picking the best bids will invite other parties to match or offer better proposals.
But “ground zero” residents have already lambasted the government’s provisional rehabilitation blueprint. In a strongly-worded manifesto, the Ranaw Multi-Sectoral Movement appealed to Duterte to reject the rehabilitation blueprint drafted by the selected Chinese-led consortium and backed by del Rosario.
“Plans have been made without our participation. Plans that neither bear the stamp of our will nor reflect our culture,” the group’s statement said. “The will and vision of those who live far from us [Chinese companies… are being imposed upon us. This is an invasion of a different kind. This one threatens to rob our soul.”
The group also opposed the construction of a new military camp in Marawi that Duterte launched last January to beef-up security in the city and prevent a repeat of the months-long siege that killed 1,100 individuals, mostly Islamic militants.
The Marawi siege, which prompted Duterte to place the entire Mindanao
island under martial law that has since been extended to the end of
this year, displaced over 350,000 civilians, about half of whom continue
to languish in evacuation centers or are staying with their relatives
in neighboring areas of Marawi.
Del Rosario gave assurances his task force will conduct more ground consultations before the rehabilitation plan for ground zero is finalized next month.
Drieza Lininding, chair of Moro Consensus Group, a Marawi-based civil society organization, has warned the Chinese-led consortium that there could face trouble if they rehabilitate and rebuild the city without the consent of locals.
He said his group is ready to file legal suits against the consortium if they disregard local inputs and sentiments. Lininding did not rule out the possibility that residents could even take up arms and sacrifice their lives if they are left out of the rehabilitation process.
“We are not against the rehabilitation of Marawi’s ground zero as long as they respect our cultural and religious sensitivities,” Lininding told Asia Times, raising widespread concerns that the rehabilitation works will infringe on many private properties.
The government recognizes 6,000 hectares of Marawi as a military reservation, including parts of ground zero.
China had signaled well in advance it’s desire to play a leading role in reconstructing the war-torn urban area, the country’s only Muslim majority city. Malaysian firms also signified an interest.