Gov’t gears up for Zamboanga City rehabilitation
MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II on Thursday said they were planning to start rehabilitation efforts in Zamboanga City, following almost two weeks of clashes between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government forces.
Roxas, in an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990AM, said the government was readying funds for the reconstruction of the city, amid military clearing operations in two villages.
“I know [President Benigno Aquino III] has ordered (Budget) Secretary Butch Abad to ready whatever amount in billions needed for the reconstruction and the upliftment of Zamboanga City,” he said.
Roxas said they have surveyed 950 structures that were burned down by the MNLF during skirmishes with the police and military.
“They burned [the houses down] when they felt government forces were near. They burned down shanties and houses to drive government forces away and to gain a ‘field of fire’ to make it easier for them to snipe,” he said.
But Roxas said they were still focusing on the needs of the more than 80,000 evacuees while government forces engaged in the “most delicate and dangerous” phase of the clearing operations – where they go from house to house to secure and check the area for MNLF fighters and explosives.
Roxas said the MNLF was now constricted in two villages compared to the seven mentioned last week.
“More or less 50 to 70 (fighters) are near the border of Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina,” he said, adding that they were hiding in a three-hectare area.
“[The area is] still large. But they are being surrounded (by government forces),” he added.
Roxas said Aquino was still in Zamboanga City but could not go around the city because it would stretch the security forces.
“It should be understood that [the President] cannot go around because it would split our forces since he needs to be secured. The risk is very high. That is why he just gives orders from the tactical operation center,” the secretary said.
Roxas said they were hopeful for MNLF members who would return to the ambit of the law but explained they would still have to face charges filed against them.
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