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DND seeks P1 B more for Marawi campaign

“We have been provided a budget for the year for our regular and normal operations,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told the Mindanao Hour briefing in Malacañang yesterday. File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of National Defense (DND) is asking for a supplemental budget of at least P1 billion to replenish the contingency funds of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“We have been provided a budget for the year for our regular and normal operations,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told the Mindanao Hour briefing in Malacañang yesterday.

“But Marawi is like a crisis that has come out… that will be provided for by our contingencies. And in order to prepare for other contingencies, we need to replenish our funds,” Padilla explained.

With estimated expenses of P3 billion over more than three months of fighting, Padilla admitted the military’s resources have been used mostly to augment the needs of the troops fighting the Maute terrorists in Marawi City.

“We went beyond our contingencies already. So, we need to replenish them and keep our stocks of much-needed armaments, ammunition, equipment, maintenance items, so that in the event of any crisis, we’ll still be able to sustain whatever requirements we need,” he said.

Padilla, however, pointed out the AFP’s operations dedicated to protecting our sovereignty have continued relentlessly, including areas in the West Philippine Sea.

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“Guarding our territorial areas, our sovereignty, we have forces deployed in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“We have forces deployed all over Mindanao to address the local communist movement in the Eastern Mindanao side; the other local terrorist groups in Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Jolo, and other parts of Maguindanao, Cotabato and other parts of the Philippines,” Padilla said.

The military presence remains active in Luzon and in the Visayas region.  

“In Southern Luzon, as well as Palawan, all of it is supported by our regular budget,” Padilla said.

As the fight closes in on the Marawi terrorists, Padilla admitted the stakes remained high in terms of logistics.

“Each day passes, that is true, the cash register clicks. And so we move on to fight them but everyday we also incur expenses. This fighting is rather expensive for the government to maintain, notwithstanding the sacrifices of the troops,” he said.

The number of soldiers killed in action has reached 145 with scores more injured during the three months of fighting.

The AFP shunned efforts for negotiations with the Maute’s remaining leaders for safe passage in exchange for freeing the civilian hostages.

Padilla said AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año has thumbed down reports that former Marawi mayor Omar Solitario Ali is reaching out to the government for safe passage in exchange of freeing hostages.

“First of all, we never took Solitario seriously. He is known to be a supporter of the Maute group there in Marawi. He should be arrested for instigating what is happening there right now,” Padilla said.

He said the AFP stands by the no negotiation policy with terrorists.
“So whatever this guy is saying is not true. That’s what the chief of staff said. And he said the crisis in Marawi will soon be over and we will neutralize all remaining armed members of this Maute group inside Marawi,” Padilla said.

Padilla said any negotiation would just prolong the conflict and it would be an insult to the entire military if Solitario was given leeway to get his comrades out of the war zone unscathed when many lives have been sacrificed.

The government must hold Solitario accountable for the lives of the civilians who have been lost in the area. The AFP said Solitario is a key supporter of the Maute group in Mindanao.

Solitario was among local officials linked to the Maute group that laid siege in Marawi City. His brother Pre Salic was also a former mayor and relative by affinity of the Mautes.

Solitario denied the allegations and volunteered to help end the fighting in Marawi.

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