MANILA -- The rehabilitation and reconstruction of structures in Marawi City is set to begin as President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city's liberation from the clutches of the Maute terrorist group, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Tuesday.
“Marawi City has been declared liberated. The small number of the remaining enemy can now be considered a law enforcement matter and does not constitute serious threat to hinder the succeeding phases of national government programs,” AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año said.
“What remains now is mopping up operations against Maute ISIS stragglers in a small area. We can now begin the next phase which is damage assessment which is part already of rehabilitation and reconstruction,” he added.
Año, however, said government troops have yet to clear the city of landmines and other explosives first before proceeding with the rehabilitation works.
President Duterte made the declaration during his seventh visit to Marawi City on Tuesday.
The President’s statement was short, "Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence, that marks the beginning of rehabilitation."
For his part, AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla echoed Ano's statement, noting the “declaration was made by the President knowing the remaining enemy force is no longer a force to reckon with."
"Clearing operations are already underway to finish them off should they decide to continue the fight. Major operations have been concluded,” Padilla said.
“The declaration was made to pave the way for the start of a full blown recovery, rehabilitation and rebuilding effort. The President thank all our troops for their sacrifice, dedication and gallantry. He also committed government's assistance to all evacuees and families affected by the conflict. We call on every sector and our citizenry to help and support the bigger task of rebuilding," he added.
The national government estimates to spend PHP50 billion to rehabilitate the war-torn city.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the rehabilitation of the city is aimed at repairing and ensuring that all infrastructures, bridges, streets, and other facilities, are cleared and put in running order as quickly as possible, to expedite the rehabilitation of the city, including its business district.
Houses not damaged in the fighting, will be quickly returned to the evacuees as soon as possible.
"As soon as the last shot is fired, the rehabilitation phase will start immediately. All available engineering equipment are there, including (those of) the Department of Public Works and Highways," Lorenzana stressed.
Padilla noted that they are still waiting for the assessment of engineers from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regarding the rebuilding procedure.
The President's pronouncement came a day after Lorenzana confirmed the death of top terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
The fighting between government troops and Maute terrorists, which lasted for almost five months, started last May 23 when the former attempted to arrest Hapilon, who was declared the emir of ISIS in Southeast Asia. (PNA)