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Rody: Marawi liberated

Female soldiers wearing hijabs take selfies with President Duterte after he declared the liberation of Marawi City yesterday. AFP

MANILA, Philippines — A city lies in ruins so the victory is no cause for celebration, but President Duterte nevertheless declared Marawi liberated yesterday from terrorist forces.

Duterte made the declaration a day after Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute terror group founder Omarkhayam Maute were killed by security forces on Monday, ending the five-month crisis inspired by the Islamic State (IS) terror network in Marawi.

“I hereby declare Marawi liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation,” Duterte said in a speech before the soldiers.

He assured the soldiers who fought the extremists that no one would be left behind.

No longer wearing the military uniform of the commander-in-chief, Duterte flew to Marawi yesterday for the seventh time since the Mautes laid siege to the city on May 23, which prompted him to declare martial law in Mindanao.

Duterte was accompanied by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philipines (AFP) chief Eduardo Año, Army chief Gen. Rolando Bautista and Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

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But there is no cause to celebrate the killing of Hapilon and Maute since the government’s priority is the rehabilitation of Marawi, the President said.

“We have restored peace in Marawi but that should not be a cause for celebration because we have destroyed the city in the process,” he said. 

Duterte also extended his apologies to the 700,000 people displaced by the conflict.

The small number of remaining Maute fighters can be considered a law enforcement matter, according to the AFP.

 “They are no longer a serious threat to hinder the rehabilitation of Marawi,” Año said.

AFP spokesman Gen. Restituto Padilla said the deaths of Hapilon and Maute dealt a big blow to local terror groups.

Padilla said the military should be vigilant against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which may sympathize with the Maute group.

He said there could be other groups sympathetic to the Maute group and the IS that may launch attacks elsewhere in Mindanao.

 Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, who was also in Marawi, said the President visited the rescued hostages.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella lauded the AFP’s victory in Marawi.

“With the terrorist leaders gone, we call on other Maute fighters to cease resistance and violence and return to the road of peace,” he said.

Marawi rehab to start

The deaths of Hapilon and Maute would enable the government to shift its focus to rehabilitating war-torn Marawi, Office of Civil Defense deputy administrator Kristoffer James Purisima said.

Purisima said an initial assessment of the damage caused by the siege may be completed by Oct. 27. But he admitted that the assessment teams could not enter the main battle area until it has been cleared of terrorists. 

“The target date of completion for the field deployment, including data analysis, consolidation and report development, is Oct. 27,” Purisima said in a press briefing at Malacañang.

“The damage and losses assessment in the uncleared areas identified as zones 13 to 17 will commence once the AFP clearing operations are completed,” he added. 

Purisima could not provide estimates of the damage to property, but said the P100-billion approximation of the defense chief is “conservative.” 

“We do not have the total picture yet. It is hard to provide estimates as clearing operations and assessments are still ongoing,” the civil defense official said. “The initial figure stated was P50 billion but it can be higher.”

Purisima said the National Housing Authority has started building transitional shelters for those who lost their homes because of the conflict. 

Leni lauds soldiers

Vice President Leni Robredo commended yesterday Filipino soldiers for bringing back peace in Marawi.

In her closing speech at the Angat Buhay first anniversary celebration in Pasay City, Robredo called on Filipinos to work together to speed up the rehabilitation of Marawi.

“We salute the courage and dedication of our soldiers and other government personnel for their sacrifices and heroism to bring back peace in Marawi,” she said.

 “The end of the crisis in Marawi is just the start of a long process of healing and rebuilding,” she added.

Allies of the President in the House of Representatives vowed cooperation and financial assistance to the rehabilitation of Marawi.

“With the death of the two terror leaders and our impending victory, we can slowly but surely refocus our energies into rebuilding Marawi,” Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said. 

Nograles, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, proposed the reconstruction of damaged schools in the city.

His brother Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles said the deaths of Hapilon and Maute should jumpstart Marawi’s reconstruction.

Samar Rep. Edgar Sarmiento said, “Now is the time to start picking up the pieces and start rebuilding and healing Marawi.”

“We can never measure the courage, dedication and selflessness demonstrated by our soldiers and they should be commended for a job well done,”  he added.

World Bank assistance

The World Bank has committed to extend assistance to the Philippine government for the rehabilitation of Marawi, according to the Department of Finance.

World Bank chief executive officer Kristalina Georgieva said the agency has expertise in rebuilding conflict-hit areas.

“As an institution that has committed to peaceful development and dealing with conflict situations, we would be honored to help in rebuilding Marawi,” Georgieva said during a recent meeting with Philippine officials.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III expressed gratitude for the World Bank’s assistance.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia and World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand Mara Warwick were also present during the meeting.

Fresh investments

Local and foreign business groups have expressed support for getting Marawi’s economy back on track through fresh investments, officials said.

“We welcome Marawi’s liberation. Finally, the rebuilding process can now start. We hope the peace and order situation will improve so we can get more investments coming into Mindanao,” European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Guenter Taus said.

American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines senior advisor John Forbes said, “As long as the conditions are right, then expect American companies to invest.”

Perry Pe of the Management Association of the Philippines said the liberation of Marawi from terrorists would mean a resurgence of business confidence in the area.

“Rebuilding of Marawi will create business opportunities and it will also enhance relations with our neighbors, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. We just hope that this will mean better foreign investments,” Pe said.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president George Barcelon said his group plans to create a local chamber in Marawi to support the government’s rehabilitation program.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) urged the government to develop a comprehensive inclusive rehabilitation of all areas in Marawi affected by the siege.

CHR Chairman Chito Gascon said rehabilitation must take into account the concerns of the hundreds of thousands of persons displaced, including restoration, restitution and reparation.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has received heavy equipment from China that would be used in the reconstruction of Marawi.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said they received excavators, wheel loaders, compactors, tractors, bulldozers, dump trucks and cement mixers from China. 

The DPWH is the lead agency for the Reconstruction Committee of Task Force Bangon Marawi.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is also extending assistance for the rehabilitation of Marawi.

“We will discuss what assistance we will provide for the rebuilding of Marawi,” Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod said.

Last July, DOLE released P30 million that benefited thousands of workers displaced by the siege.  –  With Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado, Michael Punongbayan, Helen Flores, Delon Porcalla, Mary Grace Padin, Richmond Mercurio, Janvic Mateo, Evelyn Macairan, Mayen Jaymalin

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