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, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- The more than four-month battle to retake the southern Philippine city of Marawi from pro-Islamic State extremists may end this weekend, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Wednesday.
Citing the assessment of military ground commanders, Lorenzana told reporters at the House of Representatives that he is confident that the troops will completely gain control of the city by Sept. 30.
"Our military commanders on the ground said that they will end the conflict before the end of this month, so they have three days to do the job," Lorenzana said.
"I'm very confident, I'm very confident with the abilities of our soldiers to do their job."
The military has been battling the pro-Islamic State Maute group since May 23
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, when the militants occupied a large part of the city. The war has continued and dragged on for 129 days, killing nearly 700 militants and more than 150 government security forces.
"We don't have the exact number of terrorists but I was told that they are no less than 100 so it could range from 10 to 99. The area that they control is also getting smaller. About a week ago it was estimated 10 hectares, maybe now it's down to a couple of hectares," Lorenzana said.
However, Lorenzana lamented that the government continues to suffer casualties in the ongoing offensive to recapture the city.
"We are still incurring some casualties. Yesterday, we lost one soldier and 15 others wounded. But they continue to fight despite the difficulties."
Lorenzana also said that efforts to rehabilitate the ruined city can start "any time now".
"The equipment of the DPWH ( the Department of Public Works and Highways) and the engineers are already on the ground
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, clearing the debris on the road. So, the clearing already starts," he said.
"The next step will be the PCNA, or the post-conflict needs assessment so that we will determine whether that damaged house, for instance, will be repaired or demolished. That will start on Oct. 1. It will take them one or two weeks. After that we will have a good idea of how much we need to rehabilitate Marawi and how long
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TV footages and images have revealed the huge destruction in Marawi. Large swaths of the city, especially in the central business district, are a pock-marked moonscape of damaged and collapsed buildings, shops and houses.
Indeed, the offensive to retake Marawi from IS militants has damaged thousands of structures in the country's only Islamic city and has also displaced thousands.
Many of the affected residents who fled the city in May are still living in evacuation centers or in the houses of their relatives in nearby provinces.
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TAIPEI, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Preferential policies allowing Taiwan residents to work, study and travel on the Chinese mainland embodied the goodwill and sincerity of the Chinese mainland, Taiwan academics told Xinhua Thursday.
The Chinese mainland Wednesday published a series of preferential policies for Taiwan residents, including easier access to transportation, employment
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, education and legal services.
The move was welcomed by academics in Taiwan, who believed it would help promote peaceful communication and cross-Strait relations.
"Cross-Strait ties have been at a deadlock as the administration of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus," Wang Kunyi, professor at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies of Tamkang University, told Xinhua.
"However, these new measures showed that the Chinese mainland
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, has always and will continue to, adhere to the 1992 Consensus and promote people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, no matter which party holds power on the island," he said.
Ting Jen-fang, professor at the Graduate Institute of Political Economy of Cheng Kung University said not only would the new preferential policies improve the lives of Taiwan residents on the mainland, it would also increase their willingness to work and live there
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, and gain their support for peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.
Under the new measures, Taiwan residents can be employed in public institutions in six more provincial-level regions and Taiwan academics working on the mainland can apply for state-level research projects, including projects from the National Social Science Fund.
In addition, Taiwan residents can now purchase and collect tickets via self-service ticket machines in train stations in many major cities and provinces.
Lin Hsin-hsiung, Vice President of the Peace Research Center for the Cross-Strait at Shu-Te University, said these measures will have a positive impact on Taiwan residents
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, and therefore be good for cross-Strait relations.
"The measures are more targeted and detailed this time, with many serving a specific group or occupation. This means the Chinese mainland is opening its market to Taiwan, and more Taiwan residents are expected to benefit from it," Wang said.
In order to help Taiwan graduates from mainland higher education institutions find jobs, the Ministry of Education has told institutions to standardize enrollment regulations and protect the legal rights of Taiwan students, which Ting believed will open new doors for Taiwan graduates.
"Starting salaries for recent graduates.
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