Malacañan on Tuesday, October 17, urged the remaining Maute terrorists to stop further resistance in Marawi City following the death of its two leaders.
“With terrorist leaders gone, we call on all fighters to cease further resistance and violence and return to the road of peace,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said during the Mindanao Hour press briefing.
“This is also the call of our Muslim leaders, our imams, ARMM, MNLF, MILF chiefs, and the leaders of Muslim nations and this is the plea of your families, friends, and communities,” he added.
The Palace official commended government forces for their battlefield advances now nearing total victory.
He noted that hundreds of hostages were saved with no violations of rights and religion.
“This has laid a strong foundation for peace and recovery,” Abella said, adding that government will intensify offensives across Mindanao to counter further attacks and to wipe out ISIS cells seeking to exploit people’s grievances for evil.
For his part, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. noted that the neutralization of Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute are among the most positive developments.
Padilla however clarified that this does not signal the end of hostilities, citing the remaining space occupied by about 20 to 30 armed elements and the existence of around 20 hostages.
“As we speak, our troops have remained in the battle area continuing to pursue the armed elements and seeking to rescue the remaining hostages in about two hectares of space that remains to be the battle area,” Padilla said.
“And before we can finally announce the end of the Marawi siege, there is a need to clear all these buildings of all unexploded ordnance as well as IEDs that may have been left by these retreating terrorists,” he added, noting that there are still about 60 to 80 buildings that need to be cleared.
The military official also noted that it is paramount that troops be allowed time to clear the rest of Marawi of all potential IEDs, unexploded ordnance and booby traps that may have been missed by the troops in its earlier clearing operations.
“It is because we want to ensure the safety of all our citizens, particularly the residents of Marawi, who will want to visit the areas of their residence and recover whatever it is that remains from the damage that has been caused by this terrorist group,” Padilla said.
He also explained that the Marawi siege was both an opportunity and a threat.
“An opportunity because they all lumped themselves together in one particular area which allowed us to address the big bulk of their armed elements,” he said, noting that there were over 800 of their members who have been killed in the ongoing firefight, the biggest and most significant numbers that the troops have done to impact on the terrorist group.
Padilla meanwhile assured the public that though retaliatory attacks are not a far-fetched circumstance, government troops are prepared for it.
“So, we will continue to address whatever threats there are by keeping a proactive plan and for us to address the remaining part of their network so that it will be harder for them to take root again,” he said.
Padilla also appealed to the public to practice cooperative responsibility or shared responsibility in security.
“It is the participation of every citizen to always be on the alert, to always be vigilant, to always be on the guard for any kind of threat that may be around their places of abode or their places of work or during their transition from any work during travel,” Padilla said as he appealed to the people to report to authorities suspicious-looking persons.
During the same briefing, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Assistant Secretary Kristoffer Purisima said the government would now focus on the rehabilitation of the conflict-stricken areas and plan for the return of internally-displaced persons to Marawi City.
He said five OCD-led teams composed of 145 members from 15 agencies, and Marawi City local government unit (LGU) were deployed on October 16 to conduct the post-conflict needs assessment (PCNA) in the Islamic city.
“The PCNA teams left the national emergency operations center in Iligan City yesterday morning to assess the damages and losses incurred due to the still ongoing conflict,” Purisima said.
The teams eye completion of the field deployment, including data analysis, consolidation, and report development on October 27.
According to Purisima, the Marawi City local government unit is also working with the AFP in identifying barangays that are already declared safe and a number of families would be assisted by the troops in their return at the soonest possible time.
Malacañang: Increase in Customs’ Collection to support government’s programs
In the same briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Abella assured the public that the increase in the collections of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) would go a long way in supporting the government’s programs, particularly to enhance spending on crucial infrastructure development and social services.
He commended the BOC for achieving its highest cash collection for a month after its collection for the whole month of September amounted to P39.545 billion.
“This shows the remarkable progress we made in increasing government revenues through the increase in valuation along with capability upgrade and accountability mechanisms in the country’s second largest revenue generating agency,” Abella said. ###PND