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PCOO, TFBM bring int’l media to Marawi City

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MANILA -- The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) has brought more than 40 foreign journalists to Marawi City on May 23 to showcase the government's rehabilitation program two years after the Marawi siege broke out.

The reporting tour aims to curb inaccurate information about the current situation in Marawi City.

This is the third reporting event organized by the PCOO-Office of Global Media Affairs (OGMA), following the tour in Eastern Samar to cover the return of the Balangiga Bells in December, and the trip to Cotabato City and Maguindanao for the Bangsamoro Organic Law Plebiscite last January.

More than 40 media personnel participated in the reporting event in Marawi City, coming from outlets based in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia.

The trip was organized by the OGMA, in partnership with the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

“We want to bring the journalists there to provide them the accurate narratives to avoid disinformation, which is what the PCOO has been advocating for,” OGMA chief JV Arcena said.

“This is an opportunity to showcase the government's efforts on the ground as well as the sentiment from the locals themselves, to paint a clearer picture of the situation,” he added.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, meanwhile, lauded the efforts of OGMA and TFBM.

“What you (OGMA) did was important, to provide the international media the correct narratives from the government and the people on the ground. You made their assignment or job easier for organizing a tour and securing them the clearances to get into the restricted areas. Thank you, OGMA for making a difference in this year’s anniversary of the Marawi siege. Thanks a lot for your time and effort, JV Arcena,” Andanar said.

Upon arrival to Marawi City, the international media witnessed the culmination program of the Marawi Week of Peace.

"We ensure Marawi will rise again as a prosperous city again. We are with you until the end of the rehabilitation in December 2021," Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and TFBM Chair, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, said in a speech before the locals.

Then, the international media went to the most affected area where they saw the construction of the Bangolo Bridge -- the main artery going to Marawi’s central business district.

They also witnessed the demolition of buildings beyond repair.

Del Rosario said once all debris management work is completed by November, the construction of vertical infrastructure will now commence.

About 24 infrastructure projects are lined up to be built until 2021.

Del Rosario said currently, the main challenge of the rehabilitation program is the clearing of unexploded explosives and ordinances, as he wants to assure that the city is safe before residents return to their homes.

He said bombs planted by the Islamic militants have a 650-meter blast radius -- potentially wiping out all buildings in the area.

Nevertheless, he said TFBM has been prompt in the rehabilitation process.

"We are on the right track. We can do it in less than five years," del Rosario said, noting that the timeline is shorter than the seven-year period estimated by outside experts.

He noted that the government immediately conducted intervention activities as early as two months into the Battle of Marawi even while skirmishes were ongoing. These include land development, construction of temporary housing, distribution of relief goods, and medical outreach activities.

"There are no delays. Propagandists are using delays as a Jihadist recruitment narrative," del Rosario said.

Col. Romeo Brawner, Commander of the 103rd infantry brigade, meanwhile said during the reporting tour that the Islamic terrorists no longer have the capacity to attempt another attack.

“Their capabilities are diminished. The threat posed by Maute-ISIS has gone very low,” he said.

Moreover, the reporting tour also brought the international media to the Sagonsongan transitory shelters where they interacted with the displaced families.

They also witnessed the Department of Social Welfare and Development payouts consisting of PHP73,000 cash and household goods.

“We are on our way to being well. We are finally learning what peace is all about,” Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra said during the tour.

The PCOO-OGMA is tasked to connect Philippine government policymakers with the international media, and to promote priority policy messages through engagements with foreign audiences.