President Rodrigo Duterte is not cutting short his trip amid the ongoing siege in parts of Marawi City, his top security adviser said.
Speaking to reporters in Russia, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Duterte has been briefed about the situation in Marawi City.
“We will discuss that pero tuloy pa rin (ang byahe). Na brief na siya, he’s aware of it,” Esperon said.
Esperon, citing reports from Armed Forces chief Eduardo Año, assured the public that the government is in full control of the situation.
“The order is to pursue, keep pressing, [but] keep in mind the safety of civilians also,” Esperon said.
Esperon, citing reports from the field, said the military was conducting an operation against a high-value target when the local terrorist group Maute, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, attacked the Amai Pakpak Hospital.
“We have an operation against a high-ranking target but as the operations developed, there [was] an engagement that was initiated at the Amai Pakpak Hospital,” he said.
The supposed high-value target was Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State.
Año said, at least 8 people have been injured in the clashes.
The eruption of violence in Marawi City is yet another challenge to the Duterte government, which is working to eliminate Islamic extremists and pirates in strife-torn Mindanao.
Dozens died when the Maute Group last engaged government troops in a major gun battle in Lanao del Sur in November last year.