Inside Marawi: Firefight, airstrikes continue; civilian forces eyed to defend cities

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Marawi City (CNN Philippines, June 17) — Government troops advance deeper into the battlefield of Marawi, as they fight to liberate the war-torn city.

Scout rangers and medical personnel are closely working together to ensure safety within the area.

"Kailangan i-clear yung mga buildings, i-clear yung mga rooms, house to house, floor to floor, so makikita natin na talagang dikitan ang laban ito," said Joint Task Force Marawi spokesman Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera.

[Translation: All buildings have to be cleared, as well as the rooms. We go from house to house, floor to floor. The fighting is really intense.]

READ: AFP monitoring, tracking down possible Maute members in Iligan, CDO

Explosions could still be heard in different directions, as airstrikes in suspected Maute hideouts persist.

Herrera said these air bombardments help push the militants out of their stronghold.

"Right now, meron pa silang enough supplies pero paubos na mga bala nila. Kaya tayo ay, we are taking advantage of that situation," Herrera said.

[Translation: Right now, they still have supplies but they're running out of bullets. This is why we are taking advantage of that situation.]

On Thursday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Director Omar Romero said the number of government troops killed in action was at 59, with 225 enemies killed.

The Marawi crisis has led to massive diplacement, with more than 300,000 residents evacuting in neighboring cities, including Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.

Authorities said there are some 500 civilians still trapped in the city, and fear there are more casualties. 

READ: NDRRMC looking into putting up 'tent cities' for Marawi crisis victims

During the Mindanao Hour aired on radio on Saturday, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government is prioritizing public safety.

Local officials are also drafting an early-recovery plan for Marawi.

Crisis Management Committee Spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong said authorities have rescued nine trapped civilians from "hostile areas" on Friday.

He said a total of 908 civilians have been rescued since May 28.

However, Adiong said there is still no guarantee as to how soon the residents will be allowed to go back to their homes.

"We still have to make sure that the military will declare that Marawi City will be condusive again for habitation. Meaning for the return of our residents," Adiong said.

Civilians, LGUs eyed to defend cities

Adiong said officials eye tapping civilian forces in fighting terror groups.

"Earlier today, the regional governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, together with some local mayors of Lanao del Sur discussed the strengthening of the Civilian Defense Security Plan, in order to mobilize civilian force," Adiong said.

He added they are going to strengthen the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) and the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

"(They are) the first line of defense in securing their areas for a possible attack by the ISIS-linked local militant group," he said.

READ: Amid fighting, PH flag hoisted in Marawi on Independence Day

He also urged city mayors to be prepared and have a "proactive plan" in case of a possible repeat attack by the Maute group.

"We know the fighters are not locals, some are foreign fighters. If we tap the barangay, they know the people in the area. It's easier for them to monitor the activity if there are mga salta (new faces)," Adiong said.

CNN Philippines' Digital Producer Ver Marcelo contributed to this report