By Lady Jean L. Kabagani

ILIGAN CITY, March 8 (PIA TFBM ICCC) — Joint Task Force (JTF) Ranao clarified that Marawi City is now considered as safe and secured.

However, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operatives continue the clearing operations to neutralize all unexploded bombs and ordnances left by the Maute armed bandits during the Marawi siege. The clearing operation is part of the government’s efforts to rehabilitate the war-torn city.

In an interview, JTF Ranao deputy commander, Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., reiterated the AFP’s latest encounter with the suspected Maute gunmen, “last February, a fight (happened) in the Municipality of Pantar, Lanao del Norte.”

The emergence of recently recorded series of armed conflicts between the government forces against the ISIS-inspired Maute bandits served as indication for the AFP to further strengthen Marawi’s security.

“We are continuously doing the intelligence operations, civil military operations and combat operations to ensure safety not only in Marawi City but also in the entire Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte,” said Col. Brawner.

Meanwhile, the JTF Ranao deputy commander has also reechoed the reason behind not allowing the residents to return in barangays near the Most Affected Areas (MAA).

“Even if they are not considered living in the Most Affected Area, nandito kasi sila sa kabila ng ilog, on the other side of Agus River, nasa danger zone pa rin sila,” said Col. Brawner.

He further explained that the AFP Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams (EODs) have done mapping out of the unexploded ordnances (UXOs) and other improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in barangays adjacently located to Agus River at which point the terror group had their stronghold of defense against the military.

These communities are still considered in danger zone.

“Kasi kapag sumabog po yung bomba, meron yang radius of effectivity o ibig sabihin ito po yung danger zone… Kapag sumabog ito yung debris niya at yung killing radius niya ay aabot pa rin dun sa kabilang pampang ng ilog and these are the barangays of Saduc areas,” Col. Brawner explained.

About 70% of the total land area in MAA is in the progress of clearing operations according to the Explosives Ordinances Disposal Teams as discussed by Col. Brawner.

Sa ngayon ay ginagawa ng military ang clearing operations, when we say clearing operations we are looking for the unexploded ordnance, ito yung mga hindi sumabog na mga bomba kasama rin yung mga hindi sumabog na bala ng M203, yung mga bala ng mortars and other improvised unexploded devices na ginawa ng mga Maute –ISIS at iniwan nila doon [MAA],” he said.

The JTFR operatives and EOD teams are also having hard times detonating bombs and other artilleries left during the siege, they would usually take five to seven days for a 500 pounder huge bomb to be disposed.

JTF Ranao deputy commander said that the process of detonating a bomb from its entry point involves a long procedure considering that there is a need to use equipment such as backhoes and cement breakers.

Meanwhile, Col. Brawner extended his gratitude to the general public for becoming very vigilant after the Marawi crisis happened, “Kami po ay natutuwa na ngayon ‘yung mga taong bayan mismo ang nagtuturo kung nasaan ‘yung mga Maute-ISIS, that’s why we are able to hit them three times and natukoy natin ‘yung bahay and we were able to do a precise combat operations para ma-neutralize natin itong Maute-ISIS.”

“With the help of the people, we will make sure that Marawi City and Lanao del Sur will be safe,” he added.

Brawner asked the Marawi residents particularly those who were inhabitants of the MAA to extend their patience, as the government is wholeheartedly committed to rebuild Marawi. (LJLK/PIA ICCC)