Cost to rebuild war-shattered Philippine city could surpass US$1 billion
Security forces have engaged in ferocious street to street combat and launched air strikes in their efforts to expel the fighters from the city of Marawi
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said 50 billion pesos (US$975 million) would not be enough to rebuild the southern city of Marawi, citing massive damage caused by the conflict between government troops and Islamic State-linked militants that’s been running for almost four months.
In a Saturday night speech after presenting a police officer released by communist rebels to the media, Duterte also said he wants the budget that was slashed from the Commission on Human Rights to be spent instead on police equipment.
He had accused the human rights chief of being a spokesman of his political opponents, who he alleged want him ousted as president.
Duterte said his drug war will continue and that big-time personalities will be hunted down even as the campaign has led to killings of teenagers, inflaming public indignation.
“There are some people who died, even teenagers, it doesn’t mean to say that you have to stop. We cannot stop.”
Duterte said he’s still considering if he will resume peace talks with communists after they released the police officer taken as hostage. He said he will take into account the views of the police and the military.
The military said in a separate statement Sunday it had captured the command centre of Islamic State group supporters who have besieged Marawi.
Security forces have engaged in ferocious street to street combat and launched air strikes in their efforts to expel the fighters from the city of Marawi, in a conflict that has raised fears that IS is looking to establish a Southeast Asian base in the Philippines.
The military said it had captured the militants’ control centre in a deadly battle that began Saturday in a mosque and another building.
“This enormous (military) gain further weakened the terrorist group by denying them their erstwhile command and control hub,” military chief General Eduardo Ano said.
“As follow up and clearing operations continue, we expect the enemy to yield more previously occupied positions, but not without a fight,” he said.
“We are ready for that.”
Hundreds of armed extremists flying the black flag of Islamic State movement in the Middle East occupied Marawi, the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23.
More than 800 militants, government troops and civilians have since been killed in the conflict, which has forced thousands to flee their homes and destroyed large parts of the once-bustling city.
Duterte has deployed thousands of troops and imposed martial law across the southern third of the country to deal with the crisis, while the military has launched a US-backed air campaign against the militants.
Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse