Del Rosario: Sectors 1 to 7 of Marawi’s Ground Zero cleared of UXOs

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 18 October) — Sectors 1 to 7 in Marawi’s Ground Zero have been cleared of unexploded bombs, while 17 to 18 more bombs have yet to be recovered in Sectors 8 and 9, Housing Secretary and Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) chair Eduardo del Rosario said on Thursday, October 17, the second anniversary of President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of Marawi as having been ”liberated from the terrorist influence.”

Del Rosario said the task force’s deadline for clearing UXOs is October 31, two weeks from October 17, and debris clearing on November 30 so rehabilitation work can finally begin by December 1, initially with the construction of the road network with underground cables for electricity, water and telecommunications, the 24 barangay halls with health center and madrasah, and the grand padian (central market).

No consent, no demolition permit. Ground Zero, 17 October 109. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Can TFBM beat the deadline? Del Rosario is confident they can.

“We have cleared Sectors 1 to 7 already. We’re now in Sectors 8 and 9 so in those seven sectors we can say bombs were cleared already, he told a press conference Thursday noon in Ground Zero’s Sector 8.

But he explained that there are still buildings in Sectors 8 and 9 – the most heavily-bombarded area as it was the last stand of the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group and its allies — that have to be cleared.

“If we do not see any bombs anymore, then we can declare that all sectors where bombs were delivered and did not explode were cleared already. That extends 50 meters from the intended location of the bombs,” he said, adding they have asked the contractor to “conduct one general sweep of the area to ensure we are not missing any portion of the MAA (Main Affected Area)” or Ground Zero.

“But there is one gray area that I would like to emphasize,” he said, noting that they are targeting 4,000 buildings for clearing and have completed clearing “2,400 plus” and expect to complete all these, about 2850, by November 30.”

He said there remains about 1,000 buildings whose owners did not give consent for demolition.

“That is one issue that would be a problem in the future because there is a possibility that in those buildings, there might be bombs but since they do not like it to be touched, that is something that we have to discuss and find out the safety considerations in those about 800 to 1000 buildings,” he said.

21 of 70 recovered

At the consultation/dialogue with Marawi’s internally displaced persons (IDPs or bakwits) in mid-March this year, Del Rosario said the MAA was already 90% cleared as “more than 4,500 explosives were already recovered” but the biggest concern” is the recovery of 49 ammunitions “as big as 500-pounder” general purpose (GP) bombs.

He said the 49 GP bombs – 110, 260 and 500 pounds — are “scattered all over the MAA and that is the reason why we do not like you to go back there for your safety.”

On May 6, in his presentation to the Cabinet, Del Rosario said a total of 3,973 unexploded ordnance have been retrieved from Ground Zero, along with 816 improvised explosive devices, and 21 of 70 GP bombs.

His presentation showed 13 of 16 500-pounder bombs, four of 17 260-pounder and four of 37 110-pounder had been recovered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), leaving 49 more unrecovered.

Mosques are among those destroyed during the five-month war between government forces and the IS-inspired Maute Group. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

On Thursday, Del Rosario said that during the recent assessment by the AFP and Eddmari Construction and Trading, the TFBM’s contractor for UXO and debris clearing, “we were down to 20 last month and two 260 pounders were found just last week and weeks ago. So we are down to about 17 or 18 bombs that we are looking for.”

After the press conference, MindaNews asked Del Rosario why he said the remaining bombs were “17 or 18” when Eddmari recovered only eight GP bombs.

29 of 70 recovered

The National Housing Authority (NHA) and Eddmari matrix on “GP bomb monitoring” as of October 10 shows 21 of the bombs were recovered by the AFP while eight were recovered by Eddmari for a total of 29 out of 70 unexploded bombs. This leaves 41 more to be recovered.

He explained the contractor, with the use of technology, scanned the area for bombs, guided by the grid coordinates from the Philippine Air Force on where they dropped the bombs that were reported not to have exploded.

He said the search was extended 50 to 100 meters from the supposed site of explosion but could not find any within 100 meters. “Sinabi nila cleared na ito” (They said this area is cleared).

The Task Force Builder detonates unexploded ordnance composed of surface bombs such as M203 ammunition, two 105 millimeter warheads , 110 pounds and 260 pounds from fighter jets at Sector 2 of Marawi’s Ground Zero oR the Most Affected Area (MAA) shortly before noon on Saturday, 3 August 2019.  MindaNews photo by RICHEL V. UMEL

He said the same procedure is being undertaken in Sectors 8 and 9.

“Maari kasing sinabi ng Air Force na hindi pumutok pero nagkaroon ng detonation” And meron namang incident na kinukuha nila but it was found out na ang depth na 12 meters hindi na ma-penetrate kasi at the depth of 3 meters tubig na. Di na makukuha talaga. So ineu-nuetralize na nila yun kahit na hindi mo nakuha physically” (It could be that the Air force said it did not explode but there was actually a detonation. And there are incidents when they tried to retrieve it but it was found out that they could no longer penetrate 12 meters because at three meters deep, it’s already water. You cannot retrieve them anymore. So they will just neutralize that even if they didn’t get that physically), he said.

“You cannot get it anymore, like a depth of 15 meters,” he said, adding, “di ka naman magtatayo ng building doon dahil tubig na yung ilalim non” (you are not going to construct a building there because it’s water underneath).

He explained that even if they can no longer retrieve the bomb because of its depth, they would tell the lot or building owner “meron dito at depth of 15 meters in this location” (there’s one here in this location, 15 meters deep).

“Ganon na ang gagawin. Pero hindi na (kukunin). Iwasan mo na lang pagka nagpagawa sila ng kung anumang structure” (That is what we will do. Not retrieve it anymore because of the depth. Just find a way to avoid it when you have a structure built,” he told MindaNews.

44 of 70 in Sectors 8, 9

According to the NHA-Eddmari matrix, Eddmari recovered eight bombs: three 500-pounder, two 260-pounder and three 110-pounder.

Of the three 500-pounder bombs recovered, one was found in Sector 6 on September 12, one in Sector 7 on the same day and one in Sector 9 on October 10.

Recovery of the three means all 16 500-pounder unexploded bombs have been recovered.

Del Rosario said all recovered bombs have been detonated.

Detonation of unexploded ordnance in Marawi City’s Ground Zero on 03 August 2019. MindaNews photo by RICHEL V. UMEL

There was a detonation at 10 a.m. on October 16 of a 260-pound bomb in Sector 8.

The matrix also shows that 44 or more than half of the 70 unexploded bombs were dropped in Sectors 8 and 9 — 24 in Sector 8 and 20 in Sector 9; two in Sector 1, none in Sectors 2 and 3, six in Sector 4, seven in Sector 5, four in Sector 6 and seven in Sector 7.

As of October 10, Eddmari recovered one 260-pound bomb in Sector 8 and one 500-pound bomb in Sector 9, both on October 10; one 260-pound in Sector 2 on July 31; two 110-pound and one 500-pound bomb in Sector 4 and one 500-pound in Sector 5, all on September 12; one 110-pound in Sector 6 on September 27.

The TFBM’s deadline to clear UXOs in sectors 8 and 9 is on October31.

Del Rosario expects President Duterte to sign an Executive Order “within the month” that would designate NHA, to be the lead agency for the road network project in coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highways, Local Water Utilities Administration, National Electrification Administration and Department of Information and Communications Technology. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)