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DND chief Lorenzana admits Marawi rehab, repair yet to start two years after siege

The reconstruction and rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City have yet to start two years since it was attacked by Maute group terrorists because the area remains uncleared of unexploded bombs dropped by the military to rid the area of terrorists, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday.

“The reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi [have] yet to start because we are still clearing unexploded big bombs sa most affected area. Mga 500 pounder and 250 pounder ito na hindi pumutok,” Lorenzana said in an interview on GMA News and Public Affairs Digital’s FYI segment with Richard Heydarian.

Lorenzana disclosed that the clearing of the unexploded bombs was initially being done by the Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army, but that Task Force Bangon Marawi headed by Secretary Eduardo del Rosario decided to hire a private company for detection and clearing of unexploded explosives.

“They hired a private company for detecting [the location] of these explosives. We only have rough coordinates of the location, kaya finding them is difficult,” Lorenzana said.

“Hindi ko alam how successful ang private company in finding these explosives. But the target date [of clearing the area of it] is in August. Two months na lang [mula ngayon] In any case, the Army's Engineering Brigade will be ready to assist,” he added.

Lorenzana admitted that such delays in the repair and rehabilitation work of Marawi will make its people vulnerable to recruitment of terrorist and extremist groups.

“Of course, the situation has been explained to the people but whatever explanation there is, there is frustration among them,” he said.

“It happened 2017. Restless na sila. They want to rebuild their houses. Eh walang nangyayari. Kaya hopefully totally ma-clear na muna [from debris and unexploded bombs] so the place can be rebuilt,” the Defense chief added.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law in May 2017 after government authorities were overwhelmed by Maute forces and their supporters while trying to serve arrest warrant against Abu Sayyaf commander and Maute’s de facto leader, Isnilon Hapilon.

The Maute group then wrecked havoc in Marawi for five months, taking hostages, destroying communities, killing non-Muslims and battling government troops with relentless sniper fire.

The Marawi siege, which ended in October 2017, left over a hundred people dead and at least P53 billion worth of damage in the area.

Since the President declared martial law in Mindanao in May 2017, Congress has extended it three times: by six months in July 2017, by one year in December 2017 and by another year in December 2018 based on the President's argument that rebellion is still ongoing in Mindanao. — RSJ, GMA News