THE government is not planning an attack on mosques, which serve as the refuge for the members of the Maute terror group in the besieged Marawi City, a military spokesperson said Wednesday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Restituto Padilla Jr. said that the military turned down the option of targeting mosques in surgical airstrikes and instead they considered other options to end the rebellion in the beleaguered city.

"We categorically state that we have not bombed and will not bomb mosque in Marawi," Padilla told a press conference.

"The Armed Forces leadership is firm in its commitment to use other options that would flush out this Maute or Daesh-inspired group from these places of worship that they have converted into machine gun and sniper nest, defensive position, and arsenals for their war activities," he added.

On Tuesday, Army's 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Jo-ar Herrera said that the AFP was compelled to launch surgical strikes on places of worship that have been turned into the extremists' staging areas.

Herrera told reporters in Marawi City that mosques would be bombed "in order to save lives and in order to protect our troops."

He earlier said that the AFP is studying the possibility to attack mosques in Marawi, citing a law that permits military reinforcement if "any armed harbor a place, be it hospital or places of warship."

Padilla denied, however, launching any defensible attacks on any Muslims' houses of worship where Maute fighters were still holed up.

He said the military would not stoop down to the level of Islamist fighters who occupy mosques for lawless activities.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said AFP chief-of-staff General Eduardo Año made the assurance that the state forces respects places of worship and other cultural and heritage sites, thus "will do everything possible to protect and preserve these places."

Padilla expressed optimism that the government forces would be able to retrieve the areas invaded by Maute group.

"The AFP assures our Muslim brothers and Islamic faithful that it will not go down to the level of these terrorists who desecrate places of worship to lure government security forces into responding to their violent activities in a similar manner," the military spokesman said.

"We are confident that through other options available to the armed forces, we will be able to retake the remaining portion of Marawi occupied by these terrorists, neutralize the remaining members who continue to hold out and begin the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the city," he added.

The fighting between government security forces and local terror group are still ongoing, three weeks after Maute laid attacks in Marawi City.

President Rodrigo Duterte was then prompted to place Mindanao under martial law on May 23, the day when the clashes in the city erupted.

Abella said that as of Wednesday, only four of 96 villages in Marawi remain as "problematic areas."

But he assured that clearing operations "continue to be positive."

"Troops continue to gain important foothold into the inner areas of terrorist-held areas. Enemy resistance continues to dwindle and enemy-held areas are getting smaller as troops advance," Abella said. (SunStar Philippines)