Philippine troops are close to retaking the entire southern city of Marawi, with Islamic State-linked militants believed to be cornered within two neighborhood blocks, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.
He declined to give a definite timeline, saying that three previous deadlines he had set were not achieved. But, he said, troops were “doing their best” to liberate Marawi, the country’s only Muslim city, which has become a wasteland of pockmarked buildings and ruined homes amid a battle that has lasted almost four months.
“There’s only little resistance left. This is just one-half village wide. That’s why I’ve been told my ground commanders that the end is near,” Lorenzana told reporters. “Just a little more patience.”
He said that apart from the United States, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, which have been helping with intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism operations, the European Union, China and Japan have also offered to assist in rehabilitating the once-scenic lakeside city.
In all, Lorenzana said, about 50 billion pesos (about U.S. $1 billion) would be needed to rebuild and rehabilitate the city, whose more than 200,000 residents abandoned it when the fighting broke out on May 23.
The defense department’s war chest would be depleted by the end of the year, with most of the money already spent on funding the campaign to win back Marawi, Lorenzana said. This year’s Philippine defense budget exceeds 130 billion pesos (U.S. $2.6 billion).
If the fighting lasted till the end of 2017, the military would face budgetary constraints, he warned. “We’d need replenishment,” Lorenzana said.
Full story: BenarNews
Richel V. Umel, Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
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