Malacañang on Friday denied there is a “humanitarian crisis” in Marawi City after President Rodrigo Duterte sought allies’ help in rebuilding the conflict-torn city.
In a news conference, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte welcoming aid from the country’s international partners is just “normal for friends” to help each other especially in times of crisis.
“The President’s invitation for international partners to aid in rebuilding Marawi is not synonymous to humanitarian crisis. We have said in numerous occasions that we welcome foreign assistance in the Marawi situation, especially in the rehab and reconstruction and recovery phase, especially now that the troops are about to liberate the city from lawless elements,” Abella told reporters.
“It is normal for friends and allies to support each other [when they]need a helping hand. And after all, we have our shared commitment with other countries to combat terrorism and attain sustainable peace,” he said.
When asked how long the rehabilitation in Marawi would last, Abella replied that the government was not setting a specific date.
“As to when the recovery and rehabilitation would last, the Bangon Marawi Plan has a short-term and a long-term timeline depending on the activities involved. So we are not giving any specific dates but there is a timeline, we have a short- and a medium-term—a short and medium and long-term timelines,” he said.
Duterte, in a speech in Pampanga on Wednesday, invited allies of the Philippines to help in the rebuilding of Marawi City.
“As our troops wrap up our operations against the remaining terrorists in Marawi, I also welcome our international partners into looking forward to rebuilding the city. This invitation extends to our allies who share with us the principles of goodwill and non-interference in our domestic affairs,” the President said.
The United States, China and Australia have extended assistance to the Philippines through intelligence-sharing or monetary aid as government forces continue to battle Islamic State-inspired extremists in Marawi.
In pursuing an “independent” foreign policy, Duterte has said the Philippines will reject foreign help if they come with strings attached.
Amid the Marawi conflict, the Duterte administration has vowed to channel a P20-billion fund for the rehabilitation and recovery program for the war-torn city.
On Friday, Abella reported that the number of civilians killed in Marawi is 44, following the recovery of 17 decomposing cadavers.
He said 303 terrorists were killed while 82 government troops died in the fighting.
A total of 1,713 civilians were rescued, while 382 firearms were recovered, the Palace official added.
During the same news conference, Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, deputy commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the military had “effectively shielded Eastern Mindanao” from further terrorist attacks.
“So after 38 days of martial law, [the]Eastern Mindanao Command, under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Guerrero, who is also the martial law implementor in Eastern Mindanao, has continuously prevented the spillover or spread of the Marawi crisis in our area of responsibility,” Gapay added.
“We have effectively shielded Eastern Mindanao from terrorist attacks and deterred any diversionary, retaliatory or sympathetic attacks by the local terrorist groups here in Eastern Mindanao,” he said.
The military official added, “Eastern Mindanao remains generally peaceful, safe and secure,” which he attributed to tightened security measures being implemented by the command.
“We have also denied terrorists from making our area a safe haven, as their safe havens, sanctuaries, and even as transit points. This is largely attributed to the tightened security measures being implemented by the command,” Gapay said.
As of Friday, he reported that a total of 17,494 checkpoint operations had been conducted, both fixed and mobile checkpoints.
“We have apprehended 31 violators in these checkpoints. We have also confiscated 15 firearms and even confiscated illegal drugs during these checkpoint operations. So somehow, they also helped in law enforcement,” Gapay said.
He added that the military has intensified intelligence coverage of the various threat groups and enhanced intelligence fusion among all government agencies.
“We activated martial law special action groups to run after and apprehend, track, apprehend those terrorists and supporters included in the arrest order issued by the martial law administrator,” Gapay said.
“And to complement this, we have established more than 5,900 barangay intelligence nets or community information collection networks to help us track these terrorists in our area of responsibility,” he added.
Gapay reported that some 17,224 internally displaced persons and evacuees were accommodated in various cities and key areas in Eastern Mindanao.
“We would like to thank the general public for your continued support and cooperation for the successful implementation of martial law here in our area,” he said.
“Your continued vigilance and alertness are instrumental in this success. So let us continue working together to maintain the peace and preserve law and order here in Eastern Mindanao,” Gapay added.