AFP assures control of Marawi as clearing ops continue

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 29) — The military on Monday refuted claims that Maute forces were in control of half of Marawi, saying it had near "complete control" of the city, with the exception of certain Maute-held areas where clearing operations continue.

"It is not true that half of the city is controlled by the rebels. Totally untrue. The Armed Forces and the Police... our forces are in complete control of the city, except for certain areas of the city where they continue to hold," Armed Forces of The Philippines (AFP) Spokesman Bgen. Restituto Padilla said Monday.

Speaking at the first-ever "Mindanao Hour" briefing, Padilla denied reports that the Maute group, which last Tuesday stormed Marawi, had a hold of the key Mindanao city.

Padilla added, military forces have secured movement within the conflict zone, although he admitted it still needed to isolate "pockets of resistance" within the Marawi.

"We are in full control, meaning to say we can control who comes in and who comes out, who moves around and who doesn't," he said.

Padilla said, the military does not have a definite timeline for when military operations will end, but ensured "our ground commanders have assured that the end is almost there."

He added, the military has reason to believe target Abu Sayyaf Leader Isnilon Hapilon, who Solicitor General Jose Calida claims has been declared the emir or leader of ISIS in the country, is still in Marawi.

"Naniniwala kami na nariyan pa siya at maaaring ito ang dahilan kaya ang pag-depensa sa mga ilang lugar ay nagiging matindi. So 'yun lang po ang masasabi ko sa ngayon," he said.

READ: Mindanao invaded by foreign terrorists - gov't

61 terrorists, 18 government forces killed

Padilla's statement comes as the clash between government troops and Maute forces approaches its seventh day.

Since starting last May 23, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the crisis has left 61 terrorists, 15 AFP troops, 3 policemen, and 19 civilians dead.

It has also prompted the evacuation of thousands of Marawi residents and has displaced more than 12,509 families within Region 10 and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

This, as residents flee from the firefight and airstrikes in Marawi city.

At the Mindanao Hour briefing, Abella said along with clearing Marawi of militants, the government is prioritizing the rescue of trapped residents and recovery of civilian victims area.

As of 6 p.m. on May 28, Abella said the government has rescued around 390 civilians in clearing operations.

He added, the government has provided some P1,172,725 in assistance for affected families in ARMM via the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The Department of Trade and Industry also enforced a price freeze on basic necessities in Mindanao, two days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the region on May 23.

The price freeze covers Regions 9, 10, 11, 12 and Caraga and is valid for a period of 60 days.

Reported lockdown

Padilla also clarified reports of a lockdown in Marawi City's neigboring province, Lanao del Norte.

"So far 'yung terminong lockdown naman ay hindi naman talaga lockdown na wala nang makapasok, wala nang makalabas," he said.

[Translation: The term 'lockdown' doesn't really mean lockdown, wherein nobody can go in and out.]

Padilla said security forces merely ensured that no dangerous forces citizens would be able to move to and from the area.

He added citizens who could prove they followed the law would not be blocked from travelling and have nothing to fear.

Iligan City Mayor Celso Regencia likewise explained the reported lockdown in Marawi's neighboring City.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' Balitaan, Regencia confirmed there was a lockdown from 12 midnight to 4a.m. in Iligan City on Sunday, but added that this was only during select AFP and PNP operations.

"Ang ibig kasi sabihin nun, hindi yung tuloy tuloy ma'am kasi kung sa loob ng city mag-conduct ng operations eh sarado talaga yung mga exit tsaka mga entrance po ma'am para kung magkaroon man ng habulan, hindi maka-reinforce yung mga kasama ng lawless elements," he said.

[Translation: It doesn't mean it's continuous, ma'am. It's because if there are operations inside the city, they will really close the exit and entrance so if there's a chase, allies of the lawless elements won't be able to reinforce them.]

"Yung lockdown kung may operations lang po ang AFP natin at PNP, ay papayag din tayo na i-lockdown para po sa seguridad ng ating mga tauhan po dito sa Iligan City," he added.

[Translation: The lockdown will only happen if AFP and PNP has operations, we'll allow the lockdown for the security of residents of Iligan City.]

He said it was business as usual in Iligan City following this lockdown, which has since been lifted.

He added so far there's enough food, water, and medicine supplies for the 17,720 Marawi residents in evacuation centers in Iligan City.