As fighting in Marawi has entered its fifth week, the situation in the strife-torn city continues to improve, a military spokesman said Wednesday, June 21.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. reported that government security forces continue to gain foothold in areas previously under the control of the Maute terror group.
“There are areas that we have not covered before that we have already overcome at this moment and the process of clearing is what we are concentrating on in the succeeding days,” Padilla said during the regular Mindanao Hour press briefing in Malacañang.
On Tuesday, the military official reported that there were about 16 buildings that have been cleared of the presence of the militants, who laid siege in Marawi City last May 23.
“We are prioritizing the areas that are built up or heavily built up which means to say those that are constructed well and can withstand attacks and bombardments and potentially may have basement areas or hidden areas underneath that can protect them from any kind of assault from the air,” Padilla said.
He also said government troops are also carefully assessing the situation in the outlying areas in preparation for the rehabilitation of Marawi but he has yet to give concrete estimate of the damage in the once peaceful and orderly city.
Padilla said Joint Task Force Ranao led by its commander Brigadier General Ramiro Rey is continuously conducting consultations with other members of the community to iron out their participation in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi once the hostilities have ended.
Asked by reporters about possible threats in different parts of the country, Padilla said threats will remain even after the Marawi crisis is resolved calling on the public to remain vigilant and alert at all times.
“But as we have been saying previously, threats remain. Lagi pong may banta na nanatili. Hindi po nawawala ‘yung mga banta. Maski saan po tayo may banta na nariyan,” he said.
He stressed anew the importance of shared responsibility and security to prevent any untoward incident.
“At nais ko lang pong ulitin ‘no, pagkatapos po na maresolba itong Marawi crisis, hindi po mawawala ang banta na haharapin natin,” he said.
During the same briefing, Padilla said the military fended off attack by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato on Wednesday morning forcing the rebels to withdraw.
“Now, ito pong ginawa ng BIFF ay isang opportunistic activity. Nakita nila na may pagkakataon so ipinamalas nila ‘yung kanilang kakayahan na kaya nilang gawin ito pero sa mabuting palad, hindi nila matagumpay na nagawa ito,” Padilla said.
The BIFF harassed a barangay augmentation team in North Cotabato. The attack was not successful, Padilla said, citing the readiness of military forces.
“So sinubukan nilang pasukin ito at hindi sila nagtagumpay dahil simula’t sapul na nagsimula po itong Marawi crisis eh handa na po lahat ng pwersa sa buong Mindanano na harapin kung anuman ‘yung mga bantang nangyayari,” he said.
Reports said the rebels used civilians to cover their withdrawal. The military, however, is assessing whether the BIFF has freed the civilians, according to Padilla.
AFP warns public against scammers
Meanwhile, Padilla issued a warning to the public regarding the increase in number of scammers trying to deceive people by raising money for the soldiers killed or injured in the Marawi fighting.
He encouraged the public to report these scammers to telecommunications companies who might then block the cellphone numbers they were using.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella reminded the public that the two accounts the government setup in Land Bank of the Philippines are the only official depository account for families of soldiers killed-in-action and for internally displaced persons.
The account names are: AFP Marawi Casualty for slain soldiers (account no: 00000552107128) and Marawi IDP (account no: 00000552107136) for evacuees.
Abella reported that the donation for the families of the fallen soldiers has increased to P508,500 from P224,000 as of June 20, while donation for the evacuees went up to P187,500 from P21,000.
The Palace official also gave an update on the situation in Marawi noting that as of 12 noon Tuesday, June 20, there are 1,645 civilians rescued or an increase of 8 from 1,637 while government casualties grew by one to 66.
The recovered firearms by government troops from terrorists increased to 271 from 255, while the number of terrorists killed rose by 10 to 268. ###PND