Maranao bizmen on rehab: Government sending mixed signals

JB R. Deveza

MARAWI CITY -- Nearly two months after the government announced the end of all combat operations in Marawi City, businessmen here said they still have no clear idea on how the government intends to help them recover.

A businessman, who used to sell ready-to-wear clothes at the now destroyed Padian, said he wants to know how, when, and where he can begin earning again.

“I have not earned a single centavo since I fled with only the clothes on my back on May 23,” said Engineer Omar Macondara of the Metro Marawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MMCCI).

Macondara was speaking at the sidelines of the First Marawi Business Consultative Forum held Wednesday, December 11, at the Bagumbayan Hall of the Marawi City Hall.

Macondara said Padian business owners had lost everything and said most of them “are not multi-millionaires with businesses outside Marawi City.”

“We need immediate help,” Macondara said.

He said 5,506 business owners of 3,659 enterprises at the Padian lost over P8.8 billion in terms of damaged, destroyed, or looted inventories and facilities.

Macondara said the data, gathered between July to October, was culled from a MMCCI-initiated survey on the status of Padian businessmen.

He said the respondents comprised only about 70 percent of all who had businesses at the Padian before May 23, the start of the fighting between Isis-inspired extremists and the government.

Macondara said they are asking both the local and National Government to declare the GMA Terminal in Saguiaran as the site of the new Padian.

He said the local government had proposed three sites for three separate padians but Macondara said businessmen prefer to have a single trade area rather than putting up three trade areas that will divide business activity.

He said businessmen also badly need financial help and said many are asking the government to provide or facilitate credit with zero payment at least for six months.

A representative of the Mindanao Business Council (MBC) who spoke at the forum said the government should immediately bring back economic activity in this war-ravaged city.

Rolando Torres said the MBC, in consultation with different business organizations, civil society groups, and government agencies, is recommending the implementation of a five-point agenda to spur economic activity here.

Torres said the five-point agenda, among others, recognizes the need to support and help the immediate resumption of business activities in the city to partly ease the need for continuous relief operations.

This, he said, entails simplifying the process of doing business to boost the early economic activities of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

Torres said the MBC recommends three actions to achieve this: a one-year moratorium on business loans and interest repayment; the streamlining of processes in loan applications; and the facilitation of access to suppliers that can provide locals with preferential rates.

Torres said a two-year tax relief for businesses and real property also needs to be put in place to further help businesses, especially MSMEs, get back on track.

Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) told the gathering of local businessmen and other local officials that the rehabilitation of Ground Zero where fighting was most intense will begin on April 2018 at the latest.

Del Rosario said the initial focus of rehabilitation will be the 24 villages in Ground Zero as well as adjacent villages.

The TFBM head said the initial phase of the rehabilitation will also center on building better a road network as well as in rebuilding all damaged or destroyed government structures.

Close to a hundred businessmen attended the business forum.

The forum was jointly organized by the Bangsa Moro Federal Business Council Inc. and the office of City Mayor Majul Gandamra.

The event was sponsored by the Makati Business Club, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, the Malaysian Chamber of Commerce-Philippines, and Korean firm LG.