THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) does not see the Marawi crisis ending before President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24 as about 600 buildings have yet to be cleared of terrorists and booby traps, its spokesman said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said the military would need 10 to 15 more days to regain control of buildings occupied by the Islamic State-linked Maute terrorists in the war-torn city.
“[T]he 10 to 15 days is beyond the SONA by the way so don’t expect it to be before the SONA,” Padilla said during the “Mindanao Hour” news briefing in Malacañang.
“At the very beginning of the conflict, we estimated about 1,500 to 2,000 total structures, infrastructure that needed to be cleared. Right now, we’re down to the last 600-plus. So we’re moving progressively. Three days ago we cleared 54, the other day 53, now we’re clearing 48. And we hope to clear more buildings as we go on,” he added.
Duterte, speaking to the business community at the Philippine Stock Exchange, on Wednesday said the Marawi crisis would be resolved in “10 to 15 days,” a self-imposed deadline that goes beyond the 60-day limit of his declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
The President has said that any decision to extend military rule in Mindanao will depend on the military’s assessment.
Padilla said the military was still finalizing its recommendation on whether or not to extend martial law over Mindanao, which will expire on July 22.
Padilla said the military hoped to give the recommendation to the President “way before the deadline.”
As of Friday, the death toll in Marawi included 392 terrorists, 93 government security forces, and 45 civilians.
Initial P5B for rehab
Padilla said that even though fighting was ongoing, the government had begun the early recovery stage, which would involve setting up tent-style temporary resettlement areas for 3,000 evacuees.
“The Armed Forces is leaning forward on its linkage with the Inter-Agency Task Force ‘Bangon Marawi’ and two of our engineering brigades are already on the ground, working closely with the other agencies that are in charge of the early recovery phase, primarily the preparation of the temporary resettlement area,” Padilla said.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno announced on Friday that the government had allocated an initial P5 billion for the recovery and rehabilitation of Marawi City in 2017.
During the Palace news briefing, Diokno said the money would be obtained from the contingent fund and other funds being held by different government agencies, as well as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.
“For the rest of the year, from August to December, that’s five months, I have already identified some P5 billion for the Marawi restoration. It’s standby money there,” Diokno said.
Diokno also said there were some offers of grants from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.