China on Tuesday turned over to the Philippines heavy equipment that will be used in rebuilding war-torn Marawi City.
"Ito po ay isang act of friendship ng Chinese government with no strings attached," Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said in an interview on News To Go.
About 47 pieces of equipment worth P155 million were donated by China for the rebuilding of Marawi City following five months of intense armed conflict there between government troops and Maute terrorists.
Villar said the donation from China was the first "tangible" aid received by the Philippines for the rehabilitation of Marawi City. The two countries have enjoyed warmer ties since the assumption of President Rodrigo Duterte to power despite the unresolved territorial dispute on the West Philippines Sea.
"Siyempre marami din kaming commitments, marami ring gustong tumulong. But China was one of the first that really delivered immediately tangible equipment kaya nandito kami ngayon at malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa Chinese government," he said.
The equipment were turned over at the DPWH Head Office in Port Area, Manila, on Tuesday morning, weeks after the first batch of equipment arrived in Iligan City on October 9.
Zhao Jianhua, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, said China is ready to contribute to Marawi's rehabilitation as "a good neighbor" and will adapt their aid to the Philippines' needs.
"Of course the reconstruction of Marawi is going to be a long process. As friend, as a partner, as a good neighbor, China is ready to contribute to the reconstruction, rehabilitation of Marawi," he said.
"The specific forms of assistance will depend very much on what Philippines will need. I think the Sec. Villar and other departments are working on a masterplan and there will be something that China will contribute."
The ambassador also congratulated the Philippine government and Armed Forces of the Philippines in winning against the ISIS-inspired Maute group.
Villar said his ocular of Marawi's ground zero revealed that everything was on track for the turnover of land development plans on November 25, though no exact figures were given for the cost needed for total rehabilitation.
"We're just waiting for the time that we can enter the main battle area then we'll know specifically kung magkanong kailangan to rebuild it. But definitely, massive," he said.
In the far future, Marawi may even be turned into a tourist destination after the city has been rebuilt, Villar added.
"Sa tingin ko, pwede nating gawing tourist destination ang Marawi and at the same time, meron na po tayong conceptual master plan for Marawi, which of course, we'll be working with the local government to make sure that it's implemented at the soonest possible time," he said.
He assured displaced residents that they will be able to return to their homes and have their opinions heard in their city's rehabilitation.
"Our objective is makabalik lahat po ng residents ng Marawi, but of course what we want, we want to improve the design of Marawi, but this will be done with the... well-being of the Marawi residents," Villar said.
The donated equipment include eight units each of excavators, wheel loaders, dump trucks, and cement mixers; five units each of compactors, track type tractors, and bulldozers; and one unit container van.
DPWH, as the lead of Task Force Bangon Marawi Reconstruction Sub-Committee, will handle the reconstruction, repair, and rehabilitation of all national roads and bridges, public schools, and government buildings.
It will also oversee the site development of transitory shelters as a member of the Housing Sub-committee. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News