Gov’t to reopen 8 barangays in Marawi

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 November) – Another set of “Kambalingan,” a Maranao term for homecoming, will be undertaken as the government eyes to reopen at least eight barangays in war-ravaged Marawi City, Office of Civil Defense Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima said.

During the Bangon Marawi press briefing in Malacañan Palace Friday, Purisima said the government will facilitate the return of the residents in three barangays on Saturday, another three on Sunday, and two on Monday, depending on the mapping activities that are undertaken by the Task Force Bangon Marawi.

He said they have yet to get the number of residents who will be returning.

“We have no figures yet because the barangay, it depends on the mapping so ia-identify pa lang natin kung ano itong mga barangay na ito,” he said.

THEY’RE HOME. Residents of Barangay Datu Saber in Marawi City wave to visitors in this photo taken 09 November 2017. A number of residents who  sought refuge in neighboring towns and cities during the five-month war between government forces and the IS-allied groups are back in this village and eight other villages. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

The official said the task force is set to clear 10 more barangays next week.

At least 55 of Marawi’s 96 barangays were affected by the five months of fighting between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group, he said.

He added 24 of the barangays that are yet to be cleared are in the main battle area.

The city government of Marawi facilitated the first Kambalingan last October 29, with at least nine barangays initially opened.

At the rate the clearing is progressing, Purisima said he is optimistic the government can facilitate the return of residents to majority of the affected areas.

Purisima said the returnees will be screened to check if they are indeed Marawi residents.

“The situation continues to normalize for the area of Marawi. We have left enough forces to safeguard its security and to expedite its return to normalcy as well as the return of IDPs (internally displaced persons) or civilians to their residents,” he said.

On Monday, he said, Task Force Bangon Marawi Chairperson Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario will preside a meeting of the body in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

The task force will hold a stakeholders’ consultation in Iligan City on November 22, he said.

He assured the task force will continue to attend to early recovery needs of the displaced families pending the Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan.

The military killed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called emir of the ISIS in Southeast Asia, along with Omar Maute in a combat operation last October 16.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Major General Restituto Padilla said they have monitored no sign of life in the main battle areas since the last encounter with the Maute Group on November 5 where nine of its members were killed.

But he said that in the clearing activities on Thursday and Friday the military recovered 16 more unexploded ordnance.

Padilla said they will continue the clearing operations “until we are fully convinced that all the IEDs, all the traps, all the unexploded ordinance that may remain in the area have been found and addressed.”

“This is to preclude any kind of hazard that may be face by our civilians once we have open up the area for their return,” he said.

He added the Philippines has received rice for affected Marawi residents and P679,279,500 worth of assistance from Japan for the safety and reconstruction of Marawi, P57.6 billion from Australia, 47 heavy equipment and P1.15 billion from China.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and Taguig Mayor Laarni Lopez Cayetano each donated P5 million. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)