Soldiers help evacuated residents disembark from a military vehicle after arriving at a processing center near a hospital in Marawi City yesterday. AFP

Remaining Maute positions breached
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2017 - 4:00pm

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines  – Government troops have breached the remaining defensive positions of remnants of the Maute terror group in Marawi City, the military announced yesterday.

Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman for Task Force Marawi, said the soldiers have recovered the bodies of several slain terrorists along with their armaments.

He said bodies of civilians were also recovered, but did not say how many.

Herrera said there are still terrorists occupying buildings and mosques in four barangays in the commercial district of Marawi.

The military said the terrorists’ resistance continues to wane and the areas they hold are getting fewer as government security forces press their advance.

Sustained air strikes have also softened the areas held by the terrorists.

Herrera said the troops have cleared 16 buildings and soldiers have entered two more to flush out the terrorists.

Advancing troops have taken control of strategic vantage points in tall buildings, according to Herrera.

“Troops continue to get deeper into once enemy held positions as evidenced by the recovery of cadavers of terrorists and their firearms; computers and peripherals as well as communications equipment and accessories,” Herrera said.

“If we will not clear this properly it will post danger not only to our troops but also to the civilians who want to go back to their homes,” Herrera said.

Herrera said the military has not set Eid’l Fitr or the end of the holy month of Ramadan as another deadline for troops to clear Marawi.

“Wala po tayong (we have no) deadline” for clearing operations,according to Herrera.

The military is now preparing to assist the local government in the rehabilitation, reconstruction and rebuilding phase of Marawi as soon as the terrorist threat is quelled, he said.

He said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año reiterated that the military is prepared to embark on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi.

Marine Col. Edgardo Arevalo, public affairs chief of the AFP, said the government now controls most of Marawi City, but that government forces would not stop using air assets against the terrorists. 

“Generally, nandiyan na sa atin yung (we now have) control, so ngayon (now), we continue to use our air assets or assets of the government including our artillery,” Arevalo said during the weekly “Insider Exclusive” forum of radio dzRJ in Makati City. 

Two Army engineering battalions would be deployed to Marawi City for the reconstruction of damaged parts of the city as soon as hostilities between government troops and the Maute terror group stop, according to the military.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. General Restituto Padilla said that military engineering equipment are now deployed to Marawi to prepare for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas destroyed by fighting and air strikes since the terrorists attacked the city last May 23.

Clashes between troopers and the bandits have resulted in the death of some 258 Maute fighters, 66 soldiers and policemen and 26 civilians.

President Duterte announced yesterday in Iligan City that P20 billion has been set aside for the rebuilding of the city and construction of housing for residents whose houses were destroyed.


Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said the agency is on standby and ready to help with the reconstruction of Marawi City once the military has completed its operations against the terrorists. 

Villar has alerted the regional offices, especially in Mindanao, to be prepared for rebuilding Marawi.

“After this incident is done, we would be able to focus on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi. We are ready, our regional offices in the area. Once the military has completed its operation, we will come in,” said Villar. 

He said they would help in the rebuilding of roads and schools to help restore normalcy in the lives of residents. 

Villar assured the residents that there are funds to spend for Marawi but admitted that they still do not know how much the total rehabilitation would cost. “We would only know the exact cost of the damage when we have entered the city,” he said.

He said the department has funds for calamities and President Duterte is prioritizing the rebuilding of Marawi.

“Our disaster budget would be replenished by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). We started at P1 billion, but it will be replenished. The DBM is well equipped. The President has announced P20 billion for Marawi,” he added. 

Arevalo said the military is now conducting clearing operations and searching each building and house in Marawi to flush out remnants of the terrorists. 

He added that troops are not only clearing the areas, but also securing buildings and houses to make sure all improvised explosive devices have been removed.

Despite the government’s control over most parts of war-torn Marawi, Arevalo said the military would not stop operations against the remaining terrorist snipers.

“They are still capable of delivering sniper fire. Mayroon pa rin silang (they still have) improvised explosive devices at ganun din kahit nagpapaputok ng (and when they fire) rocket-propelled grenade, which could disable our tanks,” he said. 

As of yesterday, the AFP had secured 18 to 20 buildings in Marawi City and cleared all the terrorists inside. 

He said they were able to rescue some 1,645 civilians in Marawi City, including eight residents only yesterday morning. 

Meanwhile, Lanao del Sur Gov. Soraya Alonto Adiong has coordinated with the Philippine National Police and the Army to save whatever is left in the houses and buildings that the Maute groups and their Abu Sayyaf allies have looted.

Adiong said the Provincial Security Force have started inspecting and securing the buildings and houses in the affected areas. 

Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is assisting the local government in the rehabilitation of Marawi City.

Arevalo said the military is prepared for terrorist threats in other key cities nationwide.

“That is part of our training. We have been practicing for this. We have been studying this. That’s part of our preparation but as much as possible, we don’t want to execute it. But if push comes to shove, if the need calls for it, we can execute all these trainings. We are ready to do it,” said Arevalo.

There were recent reports that the Maute terrorists plan to launch attacks in key cities nationwide on June 30.

Arevalo described the report as unverified and therefore untrue.

But just the same, he stressed the military needs the support and help of the public in order to combat terrorist threats.  –  With Robertzon Ramirez, Evelyn Macairan, Jaime Laude, Roel Pareño, Lino de la Cruz

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