600 buildings still need to be cleared in Marawi

With around 600 structures still needing to be cleared of militants, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said yesterday it might not be able to wrap up its operations in Marawi City before the 60-day martial law lapses on July 22 or two days before President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

600 buildings still need to be cleared in Marawi
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - July 14, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - With around 600 structures still needing to be cleared of militants, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said yesterday it might not be able to wrap up its operations in Marawi City before the 60-day martial law lapses on July 22 or two days before President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“We are right into the 10 to 15 days of the President. But the 10 to 15 days is beyond the SONA,  by the way, so don’t expect it to be before the SONA,” military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.

Speaking during the Mindanao Hour at Malacañang, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella reported that 600 of the 1,500 to 2,000 buildings and structures in Marawi have yet to be inspected and cleared of terrorists.  

Abella said clearing operations are “progressing positively.” He added that there are still 80 terrorists holed up in four barangays, with heavy resistance monitored in two villages.

“As of the 13th of July, 43 had been cleared; 53 and 54 previously in – respectively in previous days. More or less 600 buildings remain to be cleared (out of the) 1,500 to 2,000 buildings, total facilities to clear at the beginning of the conflict,” Abella said.

About eight days into the 60-day limit of the martial law proclamation in Mindanao, the AFP has yet to give developments on the status of Fr. Teresito “Chito” Soganub who was taken hostage by the Maute gunmen along with around 200 others at the height of the siege last May.

Padilla said the AFP is readying its assessment report that President Duterte would likely use as basis for any decision to request for martial law extension.

“The assessment was actually based on the operational imperatives that were given to us at the beginning of the declaration,” Padilla said when asked if the 10 to 15 day time frame sought by the President would go beyond July 22.

“So, whether we have achieved or accomplished those operational imperatives is the gist of the assessment,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the retaking of Marawi from the Maute terrorists is becoming more complex.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is now reviewing and recalibrating its existing doctrines in order for the troops to adapt and respond to this evolving type of war,” he said.

Lorenzana, who like President Duterte expects that the more than a month of fighting will finally be over within 15 days, said the battle to retake Marawi is proving to be a challenge.

Only last Wednesday, two Army Scout Rangers were killed and 11 others were wounded when a wayward bomb during airstrike operations missed its target and blasted a building close to the soldiers’ positions.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of lives resulting from this most unfortunate incident. We reach out to the families and loved ones of the soldiers who lost their lives, and pray for the speedy recovery of those who were injured,” Lorenzana said.

Optimistic that the conflict would be over before the SONA on July 24, the military said government forces have already confined and constricted the movements of the terrorists in a small area within the city’s central business district.

Lorenzana compared the fighting in Marawi to those that took place in Mosul, Fallujah in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

A major project

Padilla refused to comment when asked if the AFP would seek an extension of martial law.

“ I cannot go beyond what I just said because the recommendation primarily is not yet done and it is the decision of the leadership, that will be the basis,” Padilla explained.

“Whatever they decide on, for how long it will be extended, if it is extended, or if it’s lifted, the Armed Forces will just comply,” he said.

Abella said the Maute terrorists had killed 45 civilians as of Thursday evening.

“This count is based on body recoveries. But as we go deeper into that, into the contested areas, we expect the numbers to rise. It may rise, based on potential execution of hostages or civilians killed in action,” he said.

Government forces rescued a total of 1,723 civilians. Casualties were pegged at 93.

The AFP said 394 terrorists have been killed and 498 high-powered firearms recovered from terrorists. Forty-eight buildings were cleared on Thursday.

Abella also reported the recovery of six corpses in orange garbs. They were believed to be the remains of victims of execution by terrorists.

The Inter-Agency Task Force Bangon Marawi preparation is underway and Joint Task Group Ranao link up is ongoing.

As of 2:20 p.m. Thursday, the government received donations for Marawi casualties a total of P5,554,823.23 and for evacuees at P779,727.21.

Padilla said the AFP is leaning forward on its linkage with the Inter-Agency Task Force Bangon Marawi with two military engineering brigades already deployed in Marawi.

The AFP is also playing a key role in the establishment of a temporary resettlement area, which is expected or projected to house about 3,000 evacuees in various evacuation centers.

“(It) is a major project that has to be undertaken even before hostilities end to enable the local government and the national government to relocate and improve the living conditions of the evacuees who are now in the evacuation centers,” Padilla said.

“We will work closely with all these agencies to ensure that the task at hand in the reconstruction, rehabilitation and rebuilding of Marawi into a stronger, more resilient community becomes better,” he said.

Padilla assured the residents of Marawi that the AFP will not pull out until normalcy has returned. – With Jaime Laude


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