The armed conflict maybe be over, but a larger crisis looms in the horizon as the government faces a gargantuan task of rehabilitating more than 100,000 displaced people and rebuilding their homes in six villages.
Experts say that it will take two or three years for government agencies to put things in order in Zamboanga City. This means rebuilding homes in Sta. Barbara, Lustre, Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo, Mariki and Talon-Talon or relocating those who have lost their homes and are not keen on returning to the devastated areas. But before the actual rehabilitation works, so many other tasks are to be carried out like profiling, double checking and the bureaucratic paper works that will ensue along the way.
In addition, several schools, the Enriquez Sports Complex and the R.T. Lim Boulevard badly need general clean up when the evacuees will eventually be relocated to other sites. In this case, classes in the said schools are expected to be normalized only after several weeks and consequently the students are already deprived of a big part of the learning process
Along side is the problem of the business sector wherein stores and other establishments do not expect the same number of clients and customers to come to them in the next few months as they were coming before September 9, the start of the bloody siege.
The Department of Trade and Industry had earlier said that the local business sector had already suffered more than P700 million in unconsummated sales in the second week of the standoff.
Zamboangueños, still tense from the 20-day siege, have to cope with reported terror threats or retaliation plots coming from the MNLF Misuari faction and its sympathizers.
This developed as sporadic fighting took place yesterday in Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo and Sumatra, Talon-Talon where troops are hunting down for MNLF leader Habier Malik and his few remaining followers.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the Philippine National Police troops on the ground have tightened blocking positions at the MNLF’s expected “exit and withdrawal points.”
It said the fighting had affected 23,794 families or 118,819 people from 14 villages in Zamboanga City and one village in Zamboanga Sibugay.
Of these, 18,292 families or 101,272 people are staying in 35 evacuation centers.
Troops on Friday rescued the last six hostages held by the rebels after nearly three weeks of fighting.
At least 24 bodies were recovered in the combat zone in Sta Catalina Thursday where soldiers were still conducting mopping operations.
Police were checking if Malik is one of them, after text messages circulate about a supposed last stand by Malik on Friday. Government troops were finally able to enter the remaining houses in Sta Catalina.
Early Thursday, 45 MNLF fighters were turned over to the police. The previous day, another batch of 38 fighters was captured. The recent arrests of big batches of MNLF fighters indicated government’s confusion over the number of fighters still holed up in the battle zone. As of Thursday, military numbers show a total of 128 MNLF members captured, 146 surrendered, and 126 were killed — for a total of 400 MNLF fighters. The police numbers are different: 185 captured, 24 surrendered, and 107 killed — for a total of 316. The military says the urban setting is making operations more complex than it appears.
About 200 people, including 166 rebels, have been killed in the three-week armed conflict.
Fifteen MNLF fighters were killed in Thursday night clash, an army spokesman said.
“We have secured the last six hostages,” the spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala, told a new conference in Zamboanga.
“We were told these were the last group of people held by the rebels. We now have accounted for 195 hostages.”
About 300 of the gunmen had surrendered or been captured, Zagala said.
There was sporadic gunfire on Friday and two powerful explosions were heard in areas where U.S.-trained commandos were doing house-to-house searches, Zagala said.