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Marawi folk return to ground zero

Gov’t allows limited access to 24 villages that served as main battleground during Maute siege
/ 05:18 AM March 27, 2018

ILIGAN CITY — Five months after the fighting between the military and terrorists in Marawi City ended, the government has allowed displaced residents to visit their former villages comprising the main battleground in the siege.

But Housing Assistant Secretary Felix Castro Jr., Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) field office manager, said residents of 24 villages would only be allowed a few hours at ground zero to visit their homes and retrieve whatever belongings they could salvage.

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These villages witnessed the fiercest battles during the Maute terror group’s siege of the city starting May 23 last year. These included areas comprising Marawi’s commercial district.

The military has continued barring any civilian from entering these villages even after President Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi on Oct. 17 last year, citing the presence of unexploded ordnances and improvised explosive devices.

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Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of the Joint Task Force Ranao, said soldiers continued clearing the 24 villages of explosives and other hazards.

‘Most affected area’

Castro, however, said the TFBM would allow residents to visit their properties from April 1 to May 10.

He said the visits, scheduled from 6 a.m to 3 p.m., would be allowed by “sector.”

“We have divided the MAA (most affected area) into nine sectors or areas. [Visit to] Sector 1 is scheduled on April 1 to 3,” Castro said.

Castro said residents would enter ground zero through Barangay Mapandi and would exit via Barangay Papandayan Caniogan.

Restricted

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During the visit, dubbed “Kambisita” (coined from “kambalingan,” or the Maranao term for “to return,” and “bisita,” or visit), only up to seven persons per structure or building—regardless of the number of families who previously lived there—would be allowed.

Castro said the movement of people inside the sectors would be restricted. Expect the visit to be heavily secured, he added.

“This is to make sure the visit would be orderly. We also have to make sure that they would not stray and that they would only enter their own properties,” Castro said.

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TAGS: Felix Castro Jr., Joint Task Force Ranao, Marawi evacuees, Marawi siege, Romeo Brawner Jr., Task Force Bangon Marawi
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