Bomb-clearing operations by government security forces in the main battle area of Marawi City might last until April 2018 since only two blocks have been cleared so far, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Sunday.
Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of Task Group Ranao, noted that a large area still has to be cleared of bombs and unexploded ordnances left by the Islamic State-linked Maute group that laid siege to the Lanao del Sur capital for 154 days from May 23.
Brawner said no Maute stragglers remain inside the main battle area.
According to Task Force Bangon Marawi, which is headed by Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chairman Eduardo del Rosario, the bomb-clearing operations might be over by the second quarter of 2018.
“Actually, we [in the military]cannot estimate as to when the bomb-clearing operations would end. But then after I went to Task Force Bangon Marawi, their timeline was [to finish it]by April 2018,” Brawner told reporters in an interview.
He said two blocks in the main battle area need to be cleared by the military.
After Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and retired Gen. Eduardo Año, former AFP chief of staff, declared the termination of combat operations in Marawi City, Brawner announced that the Armed Forces had recovered 77 bombs inside the main battle area.
Just last week, he said, government troops were able to recover 16 firearms in a two-day operation.
“Mostly, the 24 barangay [villages]inside the main battle area need to be cleared, so this is being done by [the military’s]engineering sectors… It is still a big area,” according to Brawner.
“It will be hard for us to declare that [the villages]are cleared and then residents would return to their households and while retrieving their things there, there would be bombs exploding around]. That’s too dangerous [for them],” he said.