New AFP chief: All structures in Marawi’s ground zero unsafe

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Incoming Armed Forces Chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez expressed objection to allowing residents of Marawi to return to their homes, saying all structures in ground zero of the war on Islamic State (IS) in the city had suffered serious damage that made these unsafe.

Galvez, newly appointed by President Duterte as Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, said even the residents’ visits to their homes, called Kambisita, should not have been allowed.

Kambisita allowed residents to visit, but not stay in, their homes or whatever was left of these.

The program started on April 1 and would end on May 10. Hundreds of residents took advantage of Kambisita to salvage belongings and valuables from their houses.

‘Hazardous structures’

Galvez said his objection to letting residents return was anchored on his concern about their safety.

“All the buildings there are structurally hazardous,” Galvez said. “It should be uprooted. It should be flattened,” he said.

Drainage systems also needed to be cleared of debris from the war because these had become breeding grounds of mosquitoes, Galvez said.

“It’s paramount for the government to consider first the safety, health and welfare of the people,” he said.

‘Hard fact’

He admitted, though, that it would be difficult to convince residents to wait for up to three years to live in Marawi again. Authorities had estimated that the rehabilitation program might take up to three years to complete.

At least 24 villages had been at the center of the fighting between government troops and local followers of IS led by Maute and Abu Sayyaf members.

“We really empathize with their feelings but the hard fact, really, is they cannot go back,” Galvez said of the residents.

Drieza Abato Lininding, chair of the nongovernment Moro Consensus Group, said Galvez’s statements sent mixed signals to the people of Marawi.

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DIPLOMATS IN MARAWI The ambassadors of Singapore, Sri Lanka, Russia, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Laos and Thailand’s chief of mission pose with top military officials, led by Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, Philippine Army chief, at the site of a housing project for Marawi residents in the village of Mipaga in Marawi. The housing project, which features a 500-square-meter vegetable farm, was built with the help of the Army and Tarlac Heritage Foundation. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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