AFP chief confident Marawi crisis to end before retirement in October

Tarlac City (CNN Philippines, September 4) — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief General Eduardo Año said Monday he hoped to end the Marawi crisis before his retirement on October 27.

"Matatapos 'yan bago ako mag-retire," said Año, when asked for a target date as to when the fighting will end. Año is due to step down on October 27 when he turns 56, which is the mandatory age of retirement.

[Translation: This will end before I retire.]

Año said the military is in the "final phase" of fighting in Marawi.

"Nasa final phase na tayo, finishing touches. Kaya nga matindi ang labanan ngayon doon," Año said, speaking to reporters at the turnover ceremony of the AFP Northern Luzon Command in Camp Servillano Aquino.

[Translation: We're in our final phase, the finishing touches. That's why fighting is intensifying.]

The military has been reluctant to place an exact date for the city's liberation from the ISIS-linked Maute group. Authorities last week said the fighting is concentrated against some 40 Maute fighters in a half-a-square kilometer radius inside central Marawi.

The Marawi crisis began after Maute troops attacked the city on May 23. Fighting has entered its fourth month.

"Nagrerepositioning mga kalaban natin, do or die na sila. But we will not stop, tatapusin natin ito," Año said.

[Translation: Our enemies are repositioning. It's do or die for them. But we will not stop, we'll finish this ]

The military scored a victory on September 1 when it recaptured Banggolo (Bayabao) bridge -- one of three key bridges in Marawi City. One more bridge, Raya Madaya (also known as the Masiu bridge) has yet to be retaken by troops.

The retaking of the bridge means more supplies and troop reinforcements can come in faster.

READ: Military retakes strategic Banggolo bridge in Marawi

Año said troops were determined to defeat the Maute fighters in Marawi, which was why fighting has intensified.

"We have cleared so many buildings but we don't have killed in action. We only have about 14 wounded, hindi naman malala yung mga tama [they weren't wounded badly]," he said of clearing operations done on September 3.

Fighting in Marawi has killed 145 soldiers, 45 civilians, and 639 enemy forces. Government forces have rescued 1,728 civilians

Presidential Spokesman Abella on Monday heralded the troops' steady advance.

"The recent retaking of two critical bridges in the city, namely the Balo-i Bridge at Mapandi, and the Bayabao Bridge in Banggolo are indicative of the decreasing maneuvering space of the rebels and will facilitate their defeat," he said during the Mindanao Hour briefing.