DND chief eyes end to siege by next month
MANILA, Philippines – From the rubble of war, a prosperous Marawi will rise.
President Duterte made this vow as he joined Muslims in celebrating Eid’l Fitr yesterday.
“One thing I will promise you, my brother Moro, I will see to it that Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again,” he said in an extemporaneous speech during the celebration of Eid’l Fitr at Malacañang last night.
“I just want this thing over and the radicals, extremists out of the Muslim world here,” said Duterte, the country’s first president from Mindanao. “We are not brutal and we respect life. At no time will bigotry be tolerated.”
At the start of the event that was attended by key figures from the Muslim community and some lawmakers, he read from a prepared speech, vowing to end the violence and conflict in Mindanao that he placed under martial law in May.
“To our brothers and sisters who have been affected by the violence and conflict in Mindanao, I assure you that the government is committed to securing just and lasting peace in the island. The military and the police remain hard at work to ending the crisis with dispatch, especially in Marawi,” Duterte said.
He said he ordered the release of P20 billion to reconstruct the city from the ashes, brought about by intense fighting for five weeks now coupled with military air strikes and surgical operations.
The conflict has displaced thousands of residents who fled to nearby Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities for safety.
“We have also laid concrete plans on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of your lives and communities. The Task Force Bangon Marawi, composed of various agencies of the government, is being created to hasten recovery efforts in Marawi City. More funds will be added, if necessary. Meaningful and long-term support will also be made available, with the help of our partners in the private sector and the international community,” Duterte promised.
A lawyer by profession, he explained anew that he had to declare martial law in Mindanao to protect its citizens, taking note of a report that said terrorists were able to stockpile firearms and that their leaders were influenced by those in the Middle East.
“I was forced into it,” he said. “When I declared martial law in Moscow, I already know everything… how long it will last. I know the deployment of the snipers and where they kept their firearms. I already have the complete picture and I knew that it will be a long fight.”
“I am also bleeding like you,” Duterte lamented the number of innocent people that were hurt, killed and beheaded by the enemy.
Duterte claimed that some of the fighters in Marawi could be his cousins. He also has relatives who allied with the Maute and he had discouraged them from joining the group which lacked ideology.
“We are all human beings, whether we like it or not, we will die…. What will we leave to our children? We now have a limited time to correct the aberration. If we allow this thing to drag on, what happens to our children?” he said.
He added that there is no mercy for the members of the ISIS-backed terror group for destroying Marawi, inflicting cruelty on the general populace and destroying properties wantonly.
“With the destruction brought about by Maute, there will be no quarters given, and no quarters asked,” Duterte said.
“Just let me be. I am very sorry that this has to happen. I am not happy that many Maranaos are killed. I am not happy about your sufferings… I see no satisfaction even in winning this war,” he said in Filipino and English.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana hopes the Marawi City conflict would end before Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the joint session of Congress on the fourth week of July.
“Perhaps, before the SONA this will be over,” Lorenzana told dzRH yesterday.
Fighting in the predominantly Muslim city has entered its sixth week, with government troopers inching their way to drive out the remaining Maute terrorists from four of the city’s 96 barangays.
“What we are seeing here is that these Mautes, they are going to fight to the death,” Lorenzana said, noting that Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año told him in a meeting last week that the conflict could end in a week’s time.
The military called on the remaining terrorists to surrender as they don’t stand a chance against government forces. But, instead of heeding the call, the group continues to fight it out with security troops.
“They appeared to be still strong so we are pushing with our operations. But this is likely to end on or before the SONA of July 27,” Lorenzana said.
Once the fighting ends and the security situation normalizes, the military would maintain its presence to help rebuild the devastated city. At least P20 billion has been earmarked from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) for the rehabilitation.
Data released by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) showed the number of individuals displaced by the ongoing crisis has reached 403,052 as of Monday afternoon.
Almost 16,000 are staying in 75 evacuation centers in nearby areas, while the rest are with friends or relatives.
Some P118 million worth of food and non-food items have been provided to the displaced residents, while another P105 million was sent in to augment DSWD field offices.
The repacking of goods is also underway at its Visayas Disaster Response Center in Cebu City. Volunteers – including students – continue to arrive and assist in the operations. At least 11,900 food packs were scheduled to be transported to Iligan City last night.
Stressing the importance of working together to address the needs of those affected by the conflict, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo earlier urged the public to inform DSWD of its shortcomings in addressing the ongoing crisis in Marawi City.
Taguiwalo said the DSWD is focused on camp management, distribution of food or non-food items and recovery while other government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH) focus on other concerns of the internally displaced people.
As of June 26, the DOH reported the death of three more evacuees, bringing the total to 27. The latest were attributed to pneumonia and dehydration.
Photo shows President Duterte addressing guests at the Eid’l Fitr celebration yesterday at Malacañang.KRIZ JOHN ROSALES
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said the DOH office in Region 10 reported that 2,013 individuals were admitted in health facilities for various conditions, of which at least 1,891 were already discharged.
The report identified the top leading cause of consultations at the 70 evacuation centers as upper respiratory tract infection, skin disease, hypertension, acute respiratory infection and acute watery diarrhea.
At least P13.6 million worth of medicine and vaccines, hygiene kits, jerry cans, hyposol, ready-to-use therapeutic food, therapeutic milk, cadaver bags, folding beds, tents and kits were provided by the DOH.
China also donated P15 million for the relief operations and rehabilitation of Marawi with Malacañang saying Chinese Amabassador Zhao Jinhua gave the check donation to Duterte in a bid to “significantly augment the resources” of the DOH and DSWD.
Australia is also helping out the government as it recently discussed ways to assist in the fight.
Minister for Defense and Senator Marise Payne said the Australian government is working with the Philippines to support the fight against terrorism in the region.
She added that the Philippine government accepted the offer of two Australian Defense Force AP-3C Orion aircraft to provide the AFP the surveillance support it needs. – With Jaime Laude, Janvic Mateo, Sheila Crisostomo, Pia Lee-Brago
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