Duterte: No assault, as gov't ready to 'wait it out' on Marawi crisis

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) — Government troops are ready to "wait it out" in its bid to liberate Marawi City from  the ISIS-linked Maute group, President Rodrigo Duterte said.

"Gusto ng Army doon i-assault. Sabi ko, 'Huwag. We will just have to wait it out.'  If it would take 10 years there, eh ilan na lang ang naiwan diyan, and you'd have to give them food,'" the President said in remarks before businessmen at the Philippine Development Forum late Wednesday.

[Translation: "The Army there wants to do an assault. But I said, 'No. We will just have to wait it out.' If it would take 10 years there, and just how many are left, and you'd have to give them food."]

The fighting in Marawi City which is now on its 79th day Thursday is confined to two barangays within a one-kilometer radius, military officials have said. Observers have questioned why operations to flush out some 70 Maute fighters in the battle zone have taken long, even as the military says it is close to victory.

The presence of an estimated 80 to 100 of the Maute group and some 300 civilians trapped in the battle zone is a reason why the government cannot launch an all-out assault.

"You might hate really the Maute guys but how about the Christians there who are being (held) hostage "And you know, if you go there and start the killing, they'll be beheaded immediately and mas dinagdagan mo 'yung problema. Eh nag-order ka na ng… Kaya ako oversensitive." Duterte said. (Translation: "... They'll be beheaded immediately and you would've worsened the problem. Because you ordered...That's why I'm oversensitive.")

Related: Palace, AFP, DND: No planned U.S. air strikes vs PH terrorists

Confounding any rescue operations of the hostages is the extent with which the Maute group planned the siege.

The Maute "had the tunnels and they accumulated the explosives overnight. Kaya hirap tayo ngayon (That's why we are having difficulty) and what is stopping us now is there are 300, baka kasama 'yung pari doon, who are held hostages," said Duterte in his speech.

On Wednesday, Task Force Philippine National Police commander Senior Superintendent Rolando Anduyan says they believe that Father Chito Suganob, a parish priest of Marawi City who was taken hostage, is still alive.

The President has bristled at criticism of the government's handling of the Marawi siege by the Maute group, which officials said are putting up strong resistance. Duterte has also taken to heart the deaths of government troops and made two visits to Marawi City to rally the soldiers.

"Masakit sa akin kasi I proclaimed martial law there and I sent the soldiers there to die. Kaya palagi akong nandoon, hoping also that I'd get a bullet in the head and probably that would satisfy everybody," he told the businessmen. (Translation: "It's painful for me because I proclaimed martial law there...That's why I am there, hoping also...")

READ: Duterte visits Marawi for the second time

The President said that combatting the terror problem was more complex and hit back at those who oversimplified the situation.

"'Yung mga ano na wala namang nalalaman (Those who don't know anything), basta they just blurt out. You simplify the problems and you do not think of the consequences of your statement," he said.

The Marawi siege which began May 23 and has killed 122 soldiers, two policemen, 45 civilians, and displaced nearly half a million Filipinos from their homes. Some 539 Maute fighters have been killed. Military officials believe that the Maute brothers and Abu Sayyaf Basilan leader Isnilon Hapilon are still in Marawi City. Hapilon is said to have been designated "emir" since 2014 of ISIS in the Philippines.

WATCH: Military says Maute brothers, Abu Sayyaf leader still alive

Marawi City and the entire island of Mindanao have been placed under military rule until the end of this year as the government pursues the Maute and other lawless groups there.

Government has admitted a failure of intelligence. Police, along with a contingent of marines, arrived May 23 in Marawi, to serve a warrant of arrest for drugs against a narcopolitician. But when they got there, they were met by the Maute who had seized key buildings in the city.

"But the action there initially was to serve a warrant for a drug case. Then it went out of proportion then we discovered na they were really preparing to proclaim Marawi as the first caliphate city," Duterte said.