Defense Chief: Military expense for Marawi Crisis reaches P3 billion

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Marawi City (CNN Philippines, August 12) — Three billion pesos.

That's how much the Philippine government has spent so far in dealing with the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City since May 23, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

"Hopefully, we can ask Congress to replenish those funds, kasi, ibang pera na yan, kinuha namin sa ibang projects, ilagay, para magamit doon," Lorenzana said in the sidelines of a forum hosted by National Defense College of the Philippines last Thursday, August 10.

It also seems the cost of paying for bullets, bombs and other expenses is expected go up some more as ground forces brace for the decisive battle.

Lorenzana said his commanders told him they can liberate the so-called Islamic City in a month or two.

"We are very ready for the final assault," said Task Force Ranao Deputy Commander Col. Romeo Brawner on the sidelines of a press briefing in Marawi City last Wednesday, August 9.

Brawner said the space of the Maute rebels have been limited to only less than a kilometer covering four villages.

He, however, added the remaining fighters are still holding their ground and launching attacks from inside concrete houses and mosques.

Both Lorenzana and Brawner admitted urban warfare has been posing a challenge to government troops, who were used in fighting in jungles.

More intelligence funds

The Department of National Defense (DND) will also request a bigger intelligence fund before Congress, from P 3.49 billion this year to P4.2 billion in 2018.

Lorenzana said the funds will be used to buy more security cameras, drones, and other high-technology equipment to enhance the military's intelligence gathering capability.

The intelligence budget hike also aims to prevent another Marawi Crisis from happening, as Lorenzana admitted there was a failure of intelligence.

"I was asked in Moscow, was it a failure of intelligence. Medyo iniwasan ko pa ng konti, iwas pusoy muna tayo. I said, no, its not failure of intelligence. Its failure to appreciate intelligence. Which is the same as, failure of intelligence, kung titingnan mo yan," Lorenzana said, which elicited laughter from the audience.

Lorenzana was with President Rodrigo Duterte and other cabinet members in a state visit in Moscow, Russia, which was cut short, when the Islamic extremists forcibly occupied Marawi City on May 23.

The biggest cost

731 individuals have lost their lives in the conflict according to data provided by the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) as of August 11, Friday.

45 of them were civilians while 128 were soldiers and the rest were Maute members.

The Lanao Del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office also fears more than a hundred bodies are still unrecovered inside the main battle area.