AFP: 30 percent of Marawi ground zero cleared of explosives

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 30) — Nearly a third of Marawi City's war-torn areas has been cleared of explosives left by the ISIS-linked Maute Group during the five-month war, the military said Saturday.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has already cleared 30 percent of Marawi's most affected areas from unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices as the Joint Engineer Task Group (JETG) continue its rehabilitation efforts in the city," it said in a statement.

Its chief engineer, Maj. Gen. Arnold Rafael Depakakibo, said his group will continue its mission to get rid of explosives to secure rehabilitation efforts. More than 500 military engineers are deployed in Marawi.

Authorities have so far recovered a total of 2,853 assorted unexploded ordnance and 415 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Marawi.

Around 20 kilometers of roads, three major bridges, a school, and three places of worship were earlier cleared to give way for the timely conduct of post-conflict needs assessment by the Department of Public Works and Highways, the AFP said.

Troops in Marawi will hasten clearing operations so residents of 24 barangays will get to visit their homes and businesses before the start of rebuilding, JTF Ranao Commander Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo said on Saturday.

Terrorists planted IEDs, booby traps, and bombs during the war in Marawi, which ended in October.

Over 900 terrorists, 47 civilians, and 165 government troops were killed in Marawi since the fighting began on May 23.

The heavy fighting turned homes and buildings into rubble and displaced over 300,000 residents.

In a statement on Saturday, Lanao del Sur Assemblyman Zia Adiong asked the government to ensure the public is educated on what the government plans to do with debris collected from the battlezone.

"Apart from the effort to clear the area from IEDs and unexploded ordnances, the public must also be aware on how the government handles the issue on debris, from collection to disposal," he said.

He said the issue would not only affect the reconstruction of the city, but has environmental considerations as well.

Adiong also appealed to the government to allow residents to return home to their homes.

"Residents need closure... If we are to flatten the area and rebuild from the ground at least allow them to have look at their homes," he said.

Martial law remains in effect in Mindanao until December 31, 2018 after Congress granted President Rodrigo Duterte's request for a one-year extension.

Some lawmakers and public officials from Mindanao supported the extension of military rule saying it makes the people feel safe. Marawi local government officials said it is needed to ensure the unhampered rehabilitation of the war-torn city.