Task Force Marawi formally formed to rehabilitate city
President Rodrigo Duterte has formally created an interagency task force for the rehabilitation and recovery of the war-torn Marawi City, with the initial allocation of P20 billion.
Duterte signed Administrative Order No. 3 creating the Task Force Bangon Marawi on June 28.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who chairs the task force, in the "Mindanao Hour" briefing in Malacanang on Monday, said the government is ready to provide additional funds if the P20 billion would not be sufficient.
Lorenzana, citing intelligence reports, said Isnilon Hapilon, the ISIS-anointed leader in Southeast Asia, remains in Marawi and hiding in one of the mosques in the city.
"According to our latest info, he’s still inside Marawi. In fact, there is an information we got this morning that he’s hiding in one of the mosques there in Marawi," he said.
"Following weeks of armed conflicts, the City of Marawi sustained significant damage to its public infrastructure and utilities, as well as private properties located therein, thereby displacing thousands of its residents," the order said.
It said the loss of lives and widespread destruction require a unified and comprehensive effort on the part of the national government to rehabilitate the city.
The Islamic State-inspired Maute Terror Group attacked Marawi on May 23 and the terrorists continued to occupy certain portions of the city.
Latest government data showed 459 people have been killed - 39 civilians (not 44 as authorities corrected the figure), 84 government troopers, and 336 terrorists.
"And we are now preparing the mechanism to go into the rehabilitational recovery, as soon as the fighting stops in Marawi," Lorenzana said.
As ordered by the President, the government would also assist residents in rebuilding private homes, he said.
"One of the things that we would like to restore immediately are the stores so that when the residents go back then they have places to buy their provisions. Also the banks, if we can restore the banks, so that the banking system or the businesses of the area will resume," he said.
He said the government will involve local government leaders, such as mayors, governors, barangay captains, "because we are going to establish a defense mechanism here so that the event --- the event for the past month in Marawi will not be repeated."
Duterte earlier blamed the people of Marawi for allowing Maute to stockpile their armaments and operate in the city.
He has said they should have been vigilant and informed the authorities of what had been going on in their area. But he also apologized he had to declare martial law in the whole of Mindanao and order the military to conduct offensive operations against the terrorists, thereby resulting to massive destruction of the city.
Lorenzana said the military has people watching Hapilon's reported arrival in Basilan and of three fighters from Marawi who arrived in the island province more than three weeks ago.. Hapilon was not one of them, Lorenzana explained.
"So we still believe that he is still in Marawi," Lorenzana said.
While he did not want to set another deadline to clear Marawi of the terrorists, Lorenzana expressed hope the problem would be over before Duterte's second State of the Nation Address on July 24.
"That is one of the things that I have asked the commanders on the ground, that if they could terminate the conflict there before the President goes on his SONA," he said.
"And we'd like the President, when he goes there (in Congress) and delivers his SONA, is that the rehabilitation is ongoing, and may be most of the people in these outskirts have already returned to their homes," added Lorenzana, who assured that there will be "no politics" in the rehabilitation program.
"The president could have tasked me (to head the task force) because I don't have political ambition," he said.
Duterte, who called for a Cabinet meeting on Monday, would discuss the Marawi rehabilitation plan and the proposed 2018 budget. Celerina Monte/DMS