Freed from ISIS takeover Filipinos return to reclaim their city

As military forces rid Marawi of the few remaining ISIS militants, small groups of residents are returning to the debris strewn city since fleeing in May when the fighting started. 

Bullit Marquez/AP
Philippine troops head back to the devastated village of Mapandi which has been cleared of Islamic State group-linked militants in Marawi city in southern Philippines Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

War might still be raging in the ruins of the Philippine city of Marawi, but the cleanup has already begun.

Under the guard of dozens of police and soldiers, about 100 of the 200,000 residents driven from their homes during 150 days of fighting have returned to start what will be a massive operation to clear the city of the debris of war.

Army trucks crawled through the deserted streets to take displaced people to safe areas of Marawi, where echoes of gunfire and explosions could still be heard as troops sought to finish off the remaining Maute group militants hemmed into a shrinking battle zone.

They swept away trash, rocks, and belongings scattered on streets, among them toys of children who fled when the pro-Islamic State rebels ran amok on May 23, setting buildings ablaze and ransacking churches and schools.

Spray painted on the shutter of one abandoned building reads "Maute ISIS," a term used for the militant alliance.

"This is very important for the normalization of Marawi because we are responding to the call for them to return back, so we need to prepare," said Lieutenant Colonel Rosendo Abad of a joint task force.

Defence officials say it could take until January before rebuilding can start, with the heart of the city littered with unexploded bombs and booby traps and buildings on the brink of collapse after months of government air strikes.

Military operations have cost $97 million and the government estimates it could be 10 times that much to rebuild Marawi.

The government on Tuesday said 20-year "patriotic bonds" would be sold to generate 30 billion pesos (Philippine; US$582 million).

Australia, the United States, Singapore, Russia, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank are among the countries and organizations that have offered to help.

But already close to the front lines of the effort is China, which has donated 47 heavy-duty industrial vehicles, among them excavators, bulldozers, tractors, cement mixers, and dump trucks.

Those vehicles are on standby at the port in nearby Iligan City, waiting for the guns to finally go silent before starting the task of restoring the country's only designated Islamic City.

Omarshariff Yassin, an engineer in charge of equipment at the Department of Public Works and Highways, said there was enough skilled manpower, but a lack of machinery.

"Before the Chinese equipment arrived, we have 15 equipment in use. We have 17 units on standby," he said.

"The more, the better. What's happening is we lack equipment so we borrow from other regions. But we really need more."

This story was reported by Reuters. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.