MANILA – “The fighting might be over, but the crisis continues on as we have to face reality hence forward.”
These were the words of Zamboanga Mayor Beng Climaco after the Department of Defense confirmed on Saturday that the 20-day Zamboanga siege is over.
The standoff between fighters of a Nur Misuari-led faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government troops began on September 9, resulting to nearly P200 million worth of damage to the city.
Tens of thousands of residents were also displaced because of the fighting.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development with the help of the local government are identifying sites where the displaced families can build new homes.
Social Welfare Sec. Dinky Soliman said around 150 to 200 homes will begin construction in October.
As the military close in on the remaining rebels who may still be hiding in the coastal areas of Barangays Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara, Climaco said the next steps would be to lift the curfew and open the establishments which suffered because of the standoff.
Climaco is also itching to return to the Zamboanga City Hall.
“We'll move back to the City Hall on Monday if the military gives us the signal to go back,” she told ANC’s “Top Story” on Saturday.
The mayor said she expects the clearing operations of the military and police forces to continue for two more weeks, noting that all hostages have been freed and about 90% of the rebels already captured.
She thanked well-meaning citizens for the outpour of support for the affected families as well as the police and military forces who “who are at the forefront trying to keep Zamboanga safe.”
“They are very brave men who have given their lives,” she said.
At least 15 soldiers were killed while more than a hundred were wounded in the fighting.
A total of 183 rebels were killed and 292 others are in custody.
Several MNLF leaders have already been charged with rebellion and crimes against International Humanitarian Law under Republic Act 9851.