President Rodrigo Duterte said he sees the Marawi crisis ending in 10 to 15 days — around the date when he will deliver his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Duterte will address both houses of the Congress to report on the status of the country on July 24.
Speaking to businessmen during the 10th listing anniversary of the Phoenix Petroleum on July 11, the President said he wants to visit the war-torn city before the crisis ends.
“Gusto kong pumunta doon, ‘yung hindi naman ako maipasubo ng sundalo na really, basta ilayo lang ako nang kaunti, basta I want to be there while there is still fighting so that I can observe,” he said. “Palagay ko, 10 to 15 days, okay na.”
[Translation: I want to go there, but I don’t want to compromise the military’s work. I just want to be there while there is still fighting so that I can observe. In my view, it will be okay in 10 to 15 days]
Duterte, as well as the military, has since stopped imposing deadlines on ending the crisis after it failed to meet several dates. First on June 2, then a week after. It also eyed to end the crisis on June 12, in time for Independence Day.
Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said in a July 10 Palace briefing that although offensive operations are “positively ongoing,” he could not say when exactly the conflict would end.
“The ground commanders have been provided the guidance to finish this as soon as they can, but it does not set a specific date,” he said.
Padilla said there are still around 80 to 100 terrorists inside Marawi.
“They are not groups anymore,” he said. “They are just individuals or small groups, but still the threat that they pose is clear and present.”
Padilla added that even though the fighting is still ongoing, the government is starting the early recovery stage, which will set up tent-style temporary resettlement areas.
“So initially, itong temporary resettlement area na medyo malayo naman po sa labanan ay safe naman po upang simulan at nagkaroon na po ng groundbreaking diyan kamakailan, informally,” he said.
[Translation: So initially, this temporary resettlement area, which is fairly far from the battle zone, is a safe place to start and, informally, there was a groundbreaking there recently.]
Communications Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag said at the same Palace briefing that 39 civilians, 379 terrorists and 89 government troops have been killed in the conflict as of July 9.
Previous planned visits
The President has yet to set foot in Marawi, seven weeks after government forces clashed with members of ISIS-linked Maute Group on May 23.
His first three attempts to visit the city did not push through, most of the time due to bad weather.
“The other day I attempted again, but Marawi is always a rainy place,” Duterte said. “I was circling Marawi, I could not land, I could not go down nearer baka matyambahan kami ng Barrett na caliber 50 (they might get a chance to hit us with a caliber 50 Barrett).”
He was supposed to go to Marawi on July 7 after visiting troops in Iligan, but said they were not able to push through as the skies did not clear up.
Inclement weather also prevented the President in his first attempt to visit Marawi during the early weeks of the clash, which started on May 23.
Duterte also planned to commemorate his first year in office in Marawi, but ended up in his hometown, Davao City last June 30.