Marawi fights to open MSU as war drags on
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Local officials in Marawi City urged the military to allow the Mindanao State University (MSU) to reopen this month, even as the war against terrorists continues to rage in a portion of the city. (READ: Little-known fact: Marawi schools outperform others in ARMM)
In a meeting last Sunday, August 6, local officials and the military discussed additional security arrangements for the university compound. Enrollment is ongoing in nearby Iligan City for the new school year.
MSU president Habib Macaayong told Rappler up to 8,000 college and a few postgraduate students have enrolled for the new school year. "They are not afraid," he said.
Located at least 6 kilometers from the main battle zone, the university is untouched by clashes with local terror groups linked to the Islamic State (ISIS). Many of the residents living inside the university compound did not evacuate.
MSU is the first area where the military allowed evacuees to go back. It has been safe from stray bullets that continue to be a problem in barangays around the battle area.
'We don't want to lose MSU'
Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr told Rappler they want to make sure that the crisis does not force students and professors to leave MSU for other universities.
"Ayaw namin mawala ang MSU sa Lanao del Sur at Marawi City. Sa buong ARMM, Lanao del Sur ang may pinakamaraming professional dahil sa MSU (Lanao del Sur and Marawi City don't want to lose MSU. In the entire ARMM, Lanao del Sur has the most number of professionals because of MSU)," Adiong said.
"Talagang kung mayroon kaming gustong bigyan ng proteksyon, MSU talaga (If there's an area we really want to protect, it is MSU)."
Adiong added that they are confident to invite students and professors back to the MSU compound.
Secured by the Marines
The military immediately deployed troops to protect the university when the clashes erupted on May 23. Secured by the Marines, many of the residents living inside the university compound opted to stay despite the conflict.
The military also gave MSU special considerations. While its college students were made to hold their graduation ceremony in Iligan City, the elementary and high school students had theirs in Marawi City. (IN PHOTOS: Graduating Marawi pupils march to the sound of war)
Slowly, in the past weeks, Adiong said the local government encouraged the university professors and workers to return to the city.
"Nagsabi na rin kami na bumalik na kayo sa MSU dahil normal na nangyayari. Marami tayong kababayan na hindi umalis diyan (We've asked the people to go back to MSU because the situation there is normal. We have a lot of residents there who did not leave)," Adiong said.
The military strictly controls movements of people in Marawi City. Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez committed to work on resuming operations at the university but has yet to give a date. (READ: Marawi: Where military rules and LGUs take a backseat)
"Continuing talks and assessments will be held to weigh things and ascertain the date of opening. We might have to delay it, but we will definitely have to open MSU for our students and for our people," Galvez said.
Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the provincial crisis management committee, said they are now looking at opening the university either on August 21 or 22. The original target opening date was August 14.
Adiong said the recent incident in the adjacent town of Marantao, where stray bombs fell, does not affect plans to reopen MSU because several layers of security will be in place when classes resume. – Rappler.com