Marawi readies ‘tent city’ for evacuees as fighting rages on

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MARAWI CITY Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said that the government plans to establish a “tent city” to house displaced Marawi citizens currently residing in areas in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, as well as cities such as Cagayan de Oro.

“We are planning to establish a tent city dito sa area ng...Marawi City kung saan hindi apektado ng conflict, para maiwasan din ‘yung congestion diyan sa mga ibang relocation center sa Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, and some parts of the municipalities in Lanao del Norte,” he said in an interview with The GUIDON.

(We are planning to establish a tent city in unaffected areas in Marawi City so that we will avoid congestion in the other relocation centers in Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, and some parts of the municipalities in Lanao del Norte.)

Around 320,000 people have been displaced since the conflict in Marawi started on May 23, while an estimated 500 people remain trapped in the battle zone.

Gandamra said that the government is making progress in the fight against the Maute Group, and that “six or seven barangays” remain in the hands of the terrorists. However, he said that the fight is far from over as government troops are struggling to adapt to the urban setting.

“But of course, mayroong mga challenges talaga [na pinagdadaanan]Medyo nahirapan nga ang ating mga sundalo na pumasok through down the top kaya gumagamit sila ng mga bomba through airstrikes dahil doon sa hirap ng pagpasok sa area kung saan nagtatago ‘yung mga snipers ng terorista.

(Of course, there are challenges that the government faces… Our soldiers are having a hard time entering down the top which is why they use bombs through airstrikes where the terrorist snipers are hiding out.)

Refugee situation

According to Gandamra, relief goods are reaching the Marawi refugees and different organizations, both private and public, are cooperating to aid the refugees.

May mga nagkasakit din, pero I think nama-manage naman [ng] ating Department of Health. Pero, as I said, kumpara sa normal na buhay, napakalayo,” he said.

(There are some who have contracted illnesses, but I think the Department of Health can still manage it. However, as I said, this is still very far from our normal lives.)

The Department of Health has recently raised concerns over the spread of illness in evacuation centers because of poor sanitation.

Sa ating kababayan, nagpapasalamat tayo [sa kanilang suporta], at of course we are asking [for] their continued support and prayer na sana matapos ng itong kaguluhan dito sa Marawi City,” he added.

(We would like to thank those who have responded to our requests, and of course we are asking for their continued support and prayer so that the conflict in Marawi City may end.)

Martial law

Gandamra also expressed support for the declaration of martial law, as long as the government continues to respect human rights.

Ang declaration of martial law ay, sa aming palagay, nararapat because of the magnitude of damage na nagawa ng Maute group sa pagsalakay nila. I think tama naman siguro for as long as ang ating military…dapat ang pinakaimportante dito ay to recognize and observe, and to [respect] ‘yung karapatang pantao ng ating kababayan, at ‘yun ang pinakaimportante doon,” he said.

(In our opinion, the declaration of martial law is necessary because of the magnitude of damage that the Maute Group has done in their invasion. I think it is right for as long as our military observes, recognizes, and respects the human rights of our citizens.)

Reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent apology to the Maranao people for imposing martial law, Gandamra said that the president understands the situation intimately.

Ika niya…mayroon siyang roots sa Maranao, kaya masakit din sa kanyang [makita na ang] Marawi City ay nawasak,” he said.

(Because he said that he has Maranao roots, it is hard for him to see Marawi City in ruins.)

Combating terrorism

Gandamra said that the fight against terrorism is not waged solely through arms, but also through the use of social media propaganda.

Itong mga terorista na ito ay...magagaling [rin] sila in terms of propaganda using the social media,” he said.

(These terrorists are also good at disseminating propaganda on social media.)

Mayroon tayong pinalabas din… Ang totoong Muslim ay hindi ang mga Maute groups o hindi ang Abu Sayyaf o hindi ang mga ibang terorista na [narito] sa Marawi City,” he added.

(We are trying to counteract the propaganda… The Maute group, the Abu Sayyaf, and all other terrorist groups do not represent real Muslims.)

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