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AFP tightens mechanism to identify terrorists from Marawi civilians

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has strengthened its process of determining gunmen from civilians in the Marawi battle area following reports that some ISIS-inspired terrorists are disguising as trapped civilians wanting to get out of the city.

LtCol Jo-ar Herrera, spokesperson of the 1st Infantry Division, said the AFP have instituted a mechanism to determine if escapees or survivors are involved in the hostilities.

Aside from the debriefing, Herrera said they are also collaborating with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on the conduct of paraffin tests.

The police force are also conducting series of investigations to determine the facts.

Herrera said they have identified some persons who were involved in the hostilities since they started their rescue operations for trapped civilians.

According to him, most of them were lured by money unaware of the extent of damage that will happen.

Herrera further said they already strengthened their cordon and defense posture as well as contained the area especially Lake Lanao to block the possible exits of the ISIS-inspired terrorists.

Meanwhile, Herrera appealed to Marawi residents to understand them if they are restricting civilians access to the city.

He said they are doing this to protect the civilians. "We intend to save more lives," he reiterated.

Amid the ongoing battle between the government troops and the ISIS-inspired terrorists, some residents want to return to their homes to get important documents and belongings.

Herrera said they are allowing access especially in cases of emergency or other humanitarian considerations. This is done in partnership with the city and the provincial government. 

ARMM provides two weeks food supply to displaced families in Marawi

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government will provide two weeks supply of food to more than 33,000 families displaced in the Marawi crisis.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman led on July 10, the turnover of an initial 2,500 food packs to the local governments of Lanao del Sur, Marawi City and the town of Saguiaran.

A single food pack contains 25 kilos of rice, a kilo of monggo, fresh and dried fish, 10 canned goods and two dozens of 3-in-1 coffee. It is intended to meet the food requirements of a family of four for at least two weeks.

Hataman said additional deliveries will be made to these LGUs in the coming days to complete the total number of food packs. 

He said they’ve asked the help of the local government units in the distribution of the food packs to ensure that the assistance will reach the beneficiaries as quickly as possible.

The more than 33,000 recipient families of the food packs are the displaced families who are known to be staying in Lanao del Sur, either house-based or in the different evacuation centers. 

Jo Henry, communications officer of the ARMM’s Humanitarian and Emergency Action Response Team (HEART), said the recipient families were identified and evaluated through the Disaster Assistance and Family Access Card (DAFAC) system.

The government is using the DAFAC system to evaluate the status and appropriate needs of affected families and ensure efficient relief distribution. (Bureau of Public Information/PIA-10)

Investments in ARMM growing at P3.65 billion in first half of 2017 despite Marawi crisis

Investments in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) remain resilient, posting a total of P3.65 billion in the first six months of 2017 notwithstanding the conflict in Marawi City that started in the third week of May.

“Despite the Marawi crisis, the investment prospects of ARMM continue to show signs of resilience and dynamism because the crisis area has effectively been contained by the government,” said Lawyer Ishak Mastura, chairman and managing head of ARMM’s Regional Board of Investments (RBOI).

The first half’s figures reported by the RBOI are higher by almost 74 percent compared with 2016’s total registration of P2.1 billion. The agency has, so far, registered three major projects this year.

The first is the P32-million fish processing and cold storage project of Abing Seafoods and Cold Storage located in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi that addresses the needs of fisher folks in the province to process, store, and preserve their seafood catch. 

Second is the P33.5-million cargo shipping project of J. Sayang Shipping Lines, Inc., which is also based in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, for inter-island trade, as well as, for cross-border shipping with Sabah, Malaysia. Lastly, RBOI approved the P3-billion telecommunications carrier project of TierOne Communications International, Inc. (TierOne) for the region. 

The company’s original plan was to start with a rollout program in Marawi City. Due to the current crisis, however, TierOne had to re-evaluate such plan. The Marawi rollout, company officials said, will still be implemented but in coordination with the rehabilitation and reconstruction program of the government.

In the revised plan, the company said it will first rollout a pilot program by building facilities in the ARMM compound in Cotabato City that would serve the regional agencies. TierOne will eventually cover the entire region with its P3-billion investments noting there remains a provision for expansion and infusion of additional capital as needed.

TierOne’s project will cover cellular service in 2G, 3G, 4G, LTE and broadband wireless internet to homes and enterprises as well as WiFi for public, or common, areas. Chairman Mastura said he expects more investments coming in during the second half of the year.

“We expect banana plantation investments in Maguindanao to continue with hundreds of millions worth to be registered this year with RBOI. There is a port services project worth P100 million, a bulk water treatment project worth around P200 million, and a cacao plantation project that will pour in P1 billion, all of which will hopefully be registered this year,” he added.

RBOI provides fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to ARMM investors. In 2015, the agency registered a total of P6.5 billion, the biggest in the history of the ARMM. (Bureau of Public Information/PIA-10)

Government troops regain Dansalan College in Marawi

Photo by Oliver Marquez of PNA

Government security forces have overran another strong lair of the Maute group in Marawi City on July 3.

Col Cirilo Thomas Donato, assistant division commander of the 1st Infantry Division, Philippine Army, disclosed in a press briefing at the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) in Iligan City, that government troops have reclaimed Dansalan College which hosted high rise structures that served as machine gun nests and snipers vantage position of the Maute group.

The troops also recovered .50 caliber machine gun and 14 other high powered firearms.

This brings to 410 total number of firearms recovered by the troops in the clearing operations to neutralize terrorists and criminal elements in the conflict area, he said.

Col Donato further revealed that a cadaver of foreign looking individual believed to be one of the reported foreign fighters from Singapore was also recovered.

He said that 11 suspected foreign fighters have been reportedly killed as of this time.

As the government continues to gain ground against the Maute group, the Management of the Dead and Missing (MDM) cluster of the NEOC has stepped-up efforts for retrieval of dead bodies and human remains, disaster victim identification, and management of the missing and the bereaved families.

Accordingly, teams have been organized and on standby for the retrieval operations while coordination on the identification of temporary burial sites and temporary morgue areas are also on-going.

Welfare desks manned by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) were also established in seven evacuation centers to assist displaced individuals looking for their missing relatives. (APB/PIA-10)

ARMM holds dialogue with youth leaders in Marawi

To address issues facing the youth who are affected by the ongoing crisis in the Islamic City of Marawi, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao's (ARMM) Office on Bangsamoro Youth Affairs (OBYA), in coordination with the National Youth Commission (NYC), conducted a dialogue with youth sector representatives here on July 1.

Participated by 100 youth leaders, the dialogue served as the venue for the youth to voice their thoughts on significant issues and on building stronger and more resilient communities.

Key points raised during the discussion centered on the role of the youth in battling terrorism, discrimination on the Filipino Muslims, scholarships for students, and efforts of the government to help internally displaced persons in the city. During the forum, participants also appealed to NYC Chairperson Aiza Seguerra  to help them spread the message especially on discrimination against Muslims.

“Magkaiba man tayo ng relihiyon lagi nyong tatandaan na we are also against Muslim discrimination, makakaasa po kayo sa suporta ko sa inyo dahil iisa po ang ating mithiin at yun ay ang kapayapaan,” Seguerra said.

Amir Mawallil, executive director of the OBYA, emphasized the need to face the problem of radicalism head on and discussed possible ways to counter the violent ideology of terror groups in the region.

“We need to act and assert more strongly against violence because this cannot be the start of another cycle of displacement,” he said. 

Mawallil also stressed the importance of the voices of the youth against terrorism.

“We need to listen to the voices of youth and understand how we can all better engage in preventing and countering violent extremism in all its various forms,” he further said.

The OBYA and NYC have committed to draft and submit a position paper echoing the youth's demands and proposals for the national government’s rehabilitation plan for Marawi City based on the recently held dialogue. (Bureau of Public Information/PIA-10)

ARMM renews call for Marawi evacuees to register for relief, rehab programs

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) reiterated its call for evacuees to register using the Disaster Assistance and Family Access Card (DAFAC) issued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“The evacuees should be registered, to have access to services and resources we are providing,” ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia said.

The delivery of services to displaced families has become harder in recent days as many Marawi residents did not register with DSWD as evacuees, especially those who are staying at their relatives’ houses in neighboring towns and cities.

Only 970 families, or 4,691 individuals, are in designated evacuation centers, while 39,783 families, or 189,261 individuals, are home-based.

The regional government has utilized the DAFAC system to ensure equal and timely distribution of relief packs for the evacuees.

The system is applied by the DSWD-ARMM to validate the status of families affected by the crisis, which will serve as a reference in the provision of appropriate interventions.

The DAFAC, Alamia said, will also be used in future rehabilitation and recovery programs for Marawi City.

She said some evacuees went to Northern Mindanao (Region 10), Socsksargen (Region 12), and Davao (Region 11); while some have gone to as far as Visayas and Luzon.

“They could go to their municipal, or city, social welfare officer to register using DAFAC so that the city government of Marawi will be able to monitor its residents, especially when rehabilitation starts,” Alamia added.

The regional government has already spent roughly P35 million in urgent assistance to victims of the Marawi crisis. 

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said the aid is aimed at meeting the growing humanitarian needs of communities struggling with the current situation. Marawi is one of only two cities in the ARMM.

The governor said current funds from the regional government can still respond to the needs of the evacuees noting the government has so far allocated about P77 million for the victims of the crisis. 

An operation center has also been set up in Malabang town in Lanao del Sur, and in Iligan City in Lanao del Norte to coordinate and manage the region’s response to the ongoing crisis in Marawi City. 

The ARMM crisis management committee has been active since May 24 in gathering information as well as in assessing and monitoring the situation on the ground to help keep track of the needs of the affected families.

Information gathered and verified help the committee in decision making, in planning actions, and in taking steps to continually ease the plight of evacuees, stranded individuals, and missing Marawi residents. (Bureau of Public Information/PIA-10)

Over 900 Marawi IDPs benefit from free hospitalization

The Department of Health (DOH) continues to provide free healthcare services to individuals displaced by the on-going crisis in Marawi City.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said over 900 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were admitted in government and private hospitals and given medicines for free. “Wala silang binayad dahil ang PhilHealth at DOH ang nagbabayad (They have nothing to pay, as the Philhealth and DOH will be paying for them),” she said.
The DOH earlier announced that hospitals would treat Marawi IDPs even if they don’t have identification or membership statuses with PhilHealth. Ubial said the excess will be paid by DOH through its Medical Assistance Program.
“Sinisigurado po namin sa lahat ng aming kababayan na galing sa Marawi na lahat ng health services sa RHU, barangay health stations, at mga ospital dito sa Iligan, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and even sa Cagayan de Oro ay libre. Wala kayong babayaran,” she reiterated.
The health secretary gave assurance that health centers and hospitals in Marawi and Lanao provinces will be fully functional and operational once the crisis is over.
“Kung matapos ang conflict na ito, sinisigurado natin sa mga Muslim brothers and sisters na lahat ng health facilities sa Marawi , Lanao del Sur,  at  Lanao del Norte ay ipapaayos  natin,” she noted.
(As soon as this crisis is over, I assure our Muslim brothers and sisters that we will repair all health facilities in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.)
Ubial further said those in the evacuation centers will continue to receive free health services and medicines from DOH doctors and nurses.
Meanwhile, DOH will distribute Philippine Health TV sets to the evacuation centers in Iligan and Lanao del Sur. The TVs will air health messages and advertisements to inform IDPs on how to strong and healthy.

Taking note of the psychosocial needs of IDPs, Ubial said they can also watch other shows for entertainment.  “Kahit papaano, kahit mahirap ang sitwasyon natin, dapat may konting entertainment (Even if we are in this difficult situation, at least we have some entertainment),” the health secretary added