CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Maranaw leaders have urged the government to reopen two access roads connecting Marawi to other areas in Lanao del Sur for easy transport of basic commodities into the towns surrounding the besieged city.
In a resolution, leaders from the groups Sautol Haqq (Voice of Truth), Marawi Sultanate League, Muslim World League-Lanao Chapter, Lanao Muslim Professional Association, Islamic School of Southern Philippines, among others, have asked President Rodrigo Duterte to order the military to open the Guimba bridge and the highway in Matampay.
Lawyer Salic Dumarpa, Sautol Haqq president, said they have sent copies of the resolution to the Office of the President and to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through courier mail on Monday.
Since the Guimba bridge and the Matampay highway have already been cleared by the government forces, Dumarpa said it would be best to open them to the public so evacuees could travel to their relatives in other parts of Lanao del Sur, and for traders to have ease in delivering goods to Marawi’s neighboring towns.
These cleared portions are the roads from Guimba bridge going to Basak area, passing through Rorogagus, Guimba, Papandayan, and Mipantao Gadonga (Lasureco); and from Matamapay national highway going to Malabang, passing through the Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol, Awar Street-East Basak, then to Basak Malut-lut national highway.
“For humanitarian reason and to serve public interest, it behooves upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines to open the immediately preceding roads to the public, subject to such reasonable conditions as maybe required by the AFP in the interest of Security,” read a part of the multi-sectoral group’s resolution.
For its part, the provincial government of Lanao del Sur has assured that two access points connecting Marawi City to the rest of the province will be opened only for passage of agencies doing humanitarian efforts and not for the general public.
Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said in a phone interview on Monday that reopening the Guimba bridge and the national highway in Matampay has long been the request of the Lanao del Sur provincial government so it could lead in the delivery of basic services to the residents living in the peripheries of Marawi.
Lanao del Sur is comprised of 39 municipalities with Marawi as its only city and the province’s capital.
Adiong said at least 10 towns in the first congressional district are indirectly affected by the conflict in Marawi since people from these localities use these roads to buy goods in the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.
For the two entry points to be made accessible for the traffic of relief assistance and basic commodities, Adiong said the military will have to put up more checkpoints along these roads and additional troops to man them.
These were closed following the intense fighting between the government forces and extremist fighters in Marawi which runs for more than two months already.
But the lawmaker said the roads will be strictly for medical and humanitarian relief operations, including the entry of the “rolling store” of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to transport and sell affordable commodities to communities surrounding Marawi.
The rolling store, he said, would bring in regularly-priced rice and other basic goods.
There were reports of overpricing in some towns near Marawi as traders, finding it hard to source out merchandize when the roads were closed to the public, have to increase their commodities owing to their scarcity.
A 50-kilo bag of rice, for instance, which was priced at P2,000, could now be bought at P6,000 in some towns.
Adiong tentatively set the opening of Guimba bridge and Matampay highway on Wednesday, July 26.
“If opened, it would at least [give access to] traffic of goods and relief assistance. It would be convenient and more accessible,” Adiong said.