September 25, 2017, 1:39 am
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Dragging Marawi conflict has so far cost gov’t P3.5B

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday said the Armed Forces has spent around P3.5 billion for the operations to rid Marawi City of terrorists from the Maute Group.

He said the defense and military establishments have used funds allotted for the remaining months of the year, and asked Malacañang for additional funds as replenishment.

“As of today, our expenses are already over P3 billion... It’s P3.5 billion, that’s for the Army, Navy, Air Force, the entire AFP,” Lorenzana said at the Senate during a hearing on the defense department’s proposed budget of P195.5 billion for 2018.

The Maute attacked the city on May 23 and still ongoing as of yesterday. The fighting has already in the death of 666 Maute Group members, 147 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians.

Military officials said there are about 40 to 50 Maute members still left in a 500-square meter main battle area, and dozens of civilian hostages, including a Catholic priest.

In the “Zamboanga siege” in September 2013, the military spent about P150 million for operations that lasted 21 days. The siege involved an attack by members of a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, led by MNLF founder Nur Misuari.

Lorenzana said the P3.5 billion spent in Marawi so far was for ammunition and bombs, fuel, food for the soldiers, medicines for the wounded, and benefits for the families of soldiers who died in the campaign, among others.

“We still have funds towards the end of the year but, as I said, we have to ask for replenishment of what we spent because we are going to have shortage (of funds) as we approach the end of the year,” he said.

He implied he has informed Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno of the need for funds. He said Diokno “is already looking where to get it.”

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, during the hearing, said part of the PNP’s intelligence fund should be realigned to the military for its anti-terrorism campaign.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who presided over the budget hearing, said he is amenable to Trillanes’ proposal but this has to be decided   during plenary deliberations on the P3.767-trillion proposed national budget.

Trillanes said the PNP asked for P900 million in intelligence funds, or P500 million more last year. He wants part of the P500 million to be given to the military.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the DND asked for an intelligence fund of P280 million but the budget department approved only P220 million. – With JP Lopez
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