30% of Marawi’s ‘Ground Zero’ cleared of UXOs and IEDs

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 31 December) — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has cleared 30% of Marawi’s former main battle area (MBA) of unexploded ordnance (UXOs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as of December 15, Col. Romeo Brawner, Deputy Commander and spokesperson of the Joint Task Force Ranao said.

Brawer said the Joint Engineer Task Group (JETG) reported recovering 2,853 unexploded ordnance and 415 IEDs within the former MBA, referred to in post-Marawi Siege reports as ‘Ground Zero.’

The military refers to it now as “most affected area” (MAA) as the MBA is used only during combat operations, Brawner said.

Buildings lay in ruins after the five-month battle to retake Marawi City from ISIS-inspired terrorists. Photo taken Tuesday (24 October 2017). MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

He told MindaNews the total area, which covers 24 of the city’s 96  barangays, comprises 134 hectares, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  Thirty per cent of 134 hectares is 40.5 hectares.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, a day after Isnilon Hapilon, Abu Sayyaf leader and alleged ISIS Emir of Southeast Asia, and the Maute Group’s Omar Maute, were killed by the military.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the termination of all combat operations in Marawi on October 23, 2017, exactly five months since the first shots were fired in Marawi City between government forces and the Maute Group, Abu Sayyaf and their allies.

A press release sent by Brawner quoted the AFP’s Chief Engineer, Maj. Gen. Arnold Rafael Depakaibo as saying the JETG “continues its main mission of clearing explosives, completing around 30% of the whole most affected area,” referring to ‘Ground Zero’  or former main battle area.

The JETG said they were assisted in the task by the Explosives and Ordnance Disposal Company and K-9 Teams from the Philippine Army and Philippines Air Force.

The JETG also reported completing and clearing “more or less 20 kilometers primary and secondary roads, three major bridges, a school, and three places of worship immediately after the liberation of Marawi.” This allowed the Department of Public Works and Highway to conduct post-conflict needs assessment, it said.

“We also continue our limited construction support to government agencies involved in supporting the maintenance of evacuation centers,” Depakakibo said.

According to Depakakibo, the JETG also assisted the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council in the construction of 500 temporary shelters for Marawi residents displaced by the five-month war.

At least 500 military engineers are currently deployed in Marawi City as part of the JETG.

Maj. Gen Roseller G Murillo, Commander of Joint Task Force Ranao, the troops in Marawi “will try to hasten the clearing of IEDs and UXOs” so residents of the 24 barangays in ‘Ground Zero’ can visit their homes and their businesses “before the start of the development of this area.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)