ILIGAN CITY: As the fighting between members of a local terror group and the armed forces in Marawi City reaches its fifth day, a military official has admitted it might take some time before the area could be considered fully neutralized.
Lt. Gen.Eduardo Año, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said government soldiers might have the upper hand but the area had proved to be difficult to penetrate.
“We are in total control of the whole area, but it has not been cleared of the terror group because of the urban terrain,” Año told reporters on the sidelines of the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to the Philippine Army’s 2nd Mechanized Battalion headquarters in Barangay Maria Cristina late Friday afternoon.
Año has placed the number of the Maute Group occupying some structures and houses within Marawi’s downtown at less than a hundred, but the challenge is the insurgents’ position.
“We have to clear one step at a time, house to house, block by block,” he said, adding that the military operations will not be easy in an urban terrain as compared to the rural area.
He said the soldiers used simple tactic in operating in a rural setting which cannot be applied in a city battle. “Here (Marawi) all it takes is for an armed person to position himself inside a building… it would take time before it could be cleared.”
To fast track the clearing operations of the military, Año said they had sent more soldiers to Marawi.
“We have enough troops, but we need additional reinforcement to speed up our clearing,” he said without divulging the actual number of soldiers deployed to Marawi.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the situation in Marawi would be normalized before the expiration of the 60-day martial law declared by Duterte.
As of press time, civilians from Marawi continue to arrive at various evacuation sites in neighboring towns and in Iligan City.
In Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur, for instance, there are about 1,300 families staying in the town gymnasium, according to the information provided by the Provincial Crisis Management Committee.
The municipality of Ditsaan Ramain has some 2,737 households and around 13,000 individuals seeking shelter in the public gymnasium.
In Iligan, there are about 2,000 evacuees at the temporary shelter in Barangay Buru-un and more than a thousand in Barangay Maria Cristina.