MANILA - The martial law declaration in Mindanao should be extended beyond its lapse on December 31 to ensure security during the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City, an official tasked to lead rebuilding efforts said Friday.
Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chairperson Eduardo del Rosario, head of Task Force Bangon Marawi, said martial rule in Mindanao would be helpful in securing rehabilitation activities in Marawi City, which was left in ruins by five months of fierce fighting between state troops and Islamic State-inspired terrorists.
Del Rosario noted that martial law in the region may have to be extended amid reports that extremists are now conducting “massive recruitment” following their defeat.
“It’s really very important that we continue to [secure] the whole area, not only Marawi City, but [the] whole of Mindanao, from terrorist threats,” Del Rosario said in a news conference in Malacañang.
“Personally, I would like martial law to continue during the rehabilitation phase because as chairman of Task Force Bangon Marawi, my main concern is the security of rehabilitation efforts. Just imagine if something will happen in Marawi City during the rehabilitation phase, baka wala nang pumuntang contractors at laborers. Mahihirapan tayo sa rehabilitation,” he added.
Del Rosario said it would be up to the police and the military whether to recommend the extension of martial law over the entire Mindanao or just limit its coverage to Marawi City.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong also supported calls to extend martial law in Mindanao, citing persistent threats from terrorists.
“As a local, I would say the end of the war does not necessarily mean the [return to] normalcy of the peace [and order] situation,” Adiong said.
"We’ve been saying this all along. The crisis will start after the war… We fear that if we will be lenient in imposing security protocols, the terror groups might use this as a portal to form and regroup again and attack another town,” he added.
The Marawi siege ended last October 23 following 5 months of fierce battles between the Maute terrorist group and state forces. It left some 1,100 people dead, mostly terrorists, and displaced over 350,000 residents from the city and nearby towns.
The conflict left the city’s commercial district in ruins. Government has allocated an initial P5 billion budget for the city's rehabilitation.
The Marawi siege had prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial law on May 23. This was extended by Congress until the end of the year following the lapse of the 60-day Constitutionally-imposed limit on the initial declaration.