FOREIGN donations for the rehabilitation and repair of the besieged city of Marawi continue to outpour with Australia as the biggest source of foreign aid, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.
In a Palace news briefing, Lorenzana said more than P2.1 billion had been pledged by foreign governments for the war-torn city, while more than P50 billion would be needed for the city’s complete rehabilitation.
In a related development, the governments of the Philippines and the United States will embark on a bilateral, interagency counterterrorism drill, Tempest Wind, in mid-September intended to test and improve the ability of both nations to rapidly plan, coordinate, and conduct counterterrorism operations.
The whole-of-government drill will be augmented by additional military assessments, national level engagement, and subject matter expert exchanges, Philippine official sources said.
These events will take place in the Philippines and Hawaii and are designed to create a realistic environment to exercise counterterrorism strategy, including senior decision-making and tactical responses, while deepening the bilateral partnership.
In addition to important information exchanges, Tempest Wind is recognized as a way to test force readiness and exercise interoperability.
These assessments will help to focus future bilateral training efforts to enhance the crisis response capabilities of both nations, the sources said.
The Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board approved Tempest Wind in November 2016, highlighting the enduring commitment of both countries to the US-Philippine alliance.
The United States is a proud ally of the Philippines and will continue to provide support and assistance to Philippine counterterrorism efforts and work jointly to address shared threats to the peace and security of both countries, the sources said.
Australia is already contributing two Orion spy planes for intelligence gathering.
In his recent visit to the country, Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne committed to sending small contingents of Australian soldiers to train Philippine troops.
Data from the Foreign Affairs Department stressed that education, health and peacebuilding programs in Mindanao accounted for more than a third of Australian aid to the Philippines.
Coming next is the United States, which also announced a P730-million humanitarian assistance.
Washington, which is also helping troops in form of “technical assistance,” had earlier donated 1,040 rocket motors and 992 rockets to the Philippine Air Force, while 1,000 grenade launchers and 250 rocket-propelled grenade launchers were given to the Philippine Army.
The country’s closest neighbors in the region, Japan and Thailand, have both donated P100 million.
The President’s new found friend, China comes off at fifth with P85 million in assistance, which consists of P70 million for wounded soldiers and P15 million for the rehabilitation.
Lorenzana, however, did not include in the list China’s donation of P370 million worth of rifles and ammunition—although intended for use in Marawi, all the firearms were given to the Philippine National Police instead.
“It was the decision of the President because he knows the police lack long firearms. And another thing is, we have sufficient firearms in the Armed Forces,” said Lorenzana.
Some of the Chinese-made rifles may have been used in Marawi by “two companies or a battalion” of the police’s Special Action Force deployed to the besieged city, he added.
The 28-member European Union, meanwhile, has pledged P49 million for Marawi efforts, Lorenzana added.
With the depleted funds of the military because of the Marawi crisis, Lorenzana said they had already requested a supplemental budget of P2.5 billion before the Budget Department.
Congress also has pledged to allocate additional funds if needed, Lorenzana added.
On the 116th day of the ongoing rebellion in Marawi City, Lorenzana expressed confidence the war was nearing its end, with only less than two barangays left with Maute terrorists still there.
He said the military had not set a deadline but assured that government troops were “doing their best.”
The Cabinet official also announced that transitional shelter areas were already being built, noting that flooring for the transitional shelters had started last Sept. 8.
He added Task Force Bangon Marawi Subcommittee on Housing met on Sept. 13 to discuss the provision of water supply in the transitional shelter site in Marawi City.
He noted that the Office of Civil Defense’s Quick Response Fund might be utilized to support such projects, such as water system, to address the immediate needs of internally displaced persons in Marawi.
In terms of psychological interventions, Lorenzana said the Task Force Bangon Marawi, in partnership with Mindanao State University, Marawi Sultanate League, and the Philippine Army had conducted a moral recovery and psychological program on Sept. 13 in Iligan City.
Meanwhile, the Quezon City government has launched the “Tabang Marawi Bakwit” project to benefit over 400 persons displaced by the armed conflict in Marawi City who are temporarily sheltered in Quezon City.
Jameel Jaymalin, executive director of the city’s Muslim Consultative Council, saw the need to undertake the project, especially since most evacuees have sought shelter with their relatives in Quezon City.
“On the part of the Quezon City Muslim Consultative Committee, we wanted to go to Marawi City and help them. But since we learned that Muslim communities around Quezon City are taking in evacuees from Marawi, we decided to help here instead,” he said.
Most evacuees have lost their homes to the chaos in Marawi.
Over 130 families have been admitted to the evacuation centers and “this number keeps on increasing,” Jaymalin said.
“Other evacuees have nowhere else to go to, nothing else to go back to in Marawi. So they decided to stay here, instead, with some of their family members,” he added.
Scholarships for college students who are among the evacuees are also in the works, while younger children will be sent to public schools in Quezon City. With Sara Susanne Fabunan and Rio Araja
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