GOVERNMENT security forces have cleared 90 percent of Marawi City of the extremist Maute group, the military said Wednesday, May 31.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Restituto Padilla said that only 10 percent of conflict-torn city must be "heavily guarded and defended."

"Some of our fighting forces, they estimate that they are reaching about 90 percent completely cleared and a little bit more than 10 percent more to go," Padilla said in a press conference.

"However, that 10 percent is most likely going to be the area that will be heavily guarded and defended by any of these armed men, if they are protecting any individual of high value," he added.

Amid the armed conflict between the government troops and Maute group, President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Mindanao under a 60-day martial law.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella reiterated that the administration is determined to "clean Marawi of militants still in the area; rescue trapped residents; recover civilian casualties and victims; and assist local government organizations, civil society organizations, and non-governmental organizations on relief operations."

Abella said at least 129 individuals have been killed in the continuing clashes in Marawi City as of May 30. The fatalities include 19 civilians, 89 militants, and 21 government troops.

He said the government was able to rescue 960 trapped residents and recovered 91 firearms.

'Dead serious'

Padilla said the government could not still assess the possible timeframe of lifting the martial law in the entire Mindanao, stressing that only ground commanders can tell "when it will end."

He cited, however, that there has been “increasingly positive” indication that the fight against terrorists will soon end.

Padilla also guaranteed that martial law is far different from the one-man rule imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The military spokesman emphasized that the government is “dead serious” in restoring peace and order in Mindanao.

“The declaration of the President is very much different from the declaration of long ago. Right now, martial law is implemented not in the fashion of 1972 by with the accordance of the 1987 Constitution,” Padilla said.

“Government is dead serious in bringing back peace–longer and sustainable peace – and a good security environment for Mindanao,” he added.

‘Peace corridor’

Abella said Duterte approved the creation of a “peace corridor,” which will be led by implementing panels of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to expedite the rescue and humanitarian operations for civilians still trapped in Marawi City.

Abella said the establishment of a peace corridor has developed after the President met MILF leaders and joint implementing panels in Davao City last Monday, May 29.

Abella said the peace corridor would serve as an instrument to ensure the civilians’ safety, as well as the delivery of the needed humanitarian aid for the displaced persons in the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.

“During the meeting, the MILF vowed to cooperate with government in securing the areas where these peace corridors will be established,” Abella said.

Irene Santiago, chairperson of government’s implementing panel, said members of the implementing panels will meet within the week to formalize the modalities and parameters of the peace corridor.

Santiago, in a statement, said both panels would utilize the existing peace mechanisms, particularly the Joint Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities, for the establishment of the said corridor.

“The peace corridor is a secure space where humanitarian groups may evacuate wounded and trapped civilians and retrieve dead bodies for burial,” Santiago said.

“The corridor is also a safe space for goods to reach hungry people in the rural areas whose access to Marawi’s markets have been cut off,” she added.

Duterte had called on the Moro combatants to help the government in the fight against terrorist groups.

Abella said both the government and the MILF implementing panels are “strongly committed” to work as partners in finding creative ways to address the root causes of violent conflict in Mindanao “at the soonest possible time.” (SunStar Philippines)