It will be up for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte whether or not to extend martial law in the southern region of Mindanao.
Martial law in Mindanao was declared by Duterte on May 23 after clashes broke out in Marawi City between government security forces and Islamic militants that include the Maute group.
The Philippine Constitution provides that the President can impose martial law for a period of 60 days.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on July 16 said he has submitted his assessment on the implementation of martial law to Duterte, who will then decide military rule in Mindanao should be extended.
Duterte is expected to announce a decision on the extension of the martial law in Mindanao before it lapses on July 22, or two days before his second State of the Nation Address.
In a statement issued by the Defense department, Lorenzana, chairman of the Task Force Bangon Marawi to rebuild and rehabilitate the war-torn city, said the work ahead after the fighting is even more daunting given the extent of damage done to the city.
“We earnestly look forward to the end of fighting because we want our Maranao brothers and sisters who have left their homes to go back, reconstitute their interrupted lives and partner with us on how we can rebuild Marawi into a better and more beautiful city,” Lorenzana said.
Government forces on July 16 continued to press their offensive Sunday against the remnants of the Maute group that overran Marawi City, clearing 60 more buildings previously used by the extremists.
The military estimated there were only 60 terrorists left in the city, after killing 405 of them since fighting broke out on May 23.
As the fighting entered its ninth week, government officials warned residents not to return to their homes yet as their safety could not be guaranteed.
As of July 15, government casualties had reached 95, while civilians killed by the terrorists stood at 45.
Armed Forces public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo sad 1,723 civilians have been rescued from the battle zone.
Malacanang urged Marawi residents to wait for the fighting to stop before returning to their homes in the war-torn city.
“We understand the sentiments of the residents of Marawi wanting to return home after being forced to flee from the city,” said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.
“The government, however, is concerned with the safety and welfare of all civilians, especially women and children,” said Abella.
“There is no assurance that areas outside the main battle zone are already safe to live in, as cases of stray bullet victims have been reported. In addition, the clearing of the entire city of Marawi of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and booby traps left by terrorists, unexploded ordnance and other explosives is still ongoing,” said Abella.
A group of women earlier said they planned to head back to the city on July 24, the day President Rodrigo Duterte was to deliver his second State of the Nation Address.
“Any right-minded Maranao and the internally displaced person should go if only to show the world that we are coming home. We have been suffering in evacuation centers,” said Bai Sittie Marohomsar, a 52-year-old evacuee who echoed sentiments typically expressed by others displaced by the Marawi conflict.
Marohomsar said they just want to go home.