Soldiers to deploy tractors in former Maute lairs

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star
Soldiers to deploy tractors in former Maute lairs
Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner, commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade based in Marawi City, said the troops will be deployed in the remote villages in Pagawayan and Sultan Dumalondong towns.
Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Soldiers hunting the remnants of the Maute group in Lanao del Sur were ordered to deploy tractors and drop seedlings over areas formerly controlled by the terrorist group in the province.

Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner, commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade based in Marawi City, said the troops will be deployed in the remote villages in Pagawayan and Sultan Dumalondong towns.

“Armed with tractors instead of tanks; dropping seeds instead of bombs, soldiers along with volunteers from the Reserve Force, Upsilon Sigma Phi and other organizations are going deep into Maute-influenced municipalities to step up efforts in resolving the structural causes of violent extremism in Lanao del Sur,” Brawner said.

Troops who will be directly involved in this new approach will be coming from the Army’s 55th and 49th Infantry Battalions.

The two Army battalions were behind the neutralization of Maute group leader Abu Dar last March 14 following weeks of intense fighting in Pagawayan and Dumalondong.

Abu Dar, one of the key planners of the Marawi siege, took over leadership of the Islamic State-inspired terror group following the killing of the Maute brothers and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon at the close of the five-month heavy fighting in Marawi City.

“Our initial targets that will benefit in our new brand of anti-terror operations are 153 Maute members and their commanders who have already surrendered to the authorities,” Brawner said.

They are expected to assist the government forces in preventing, countering violent extremism in these areas, considered before as the breeding ground of violent extremism, he said.

Brawner said soldiers will be lending the tractors to Maute surrenderees and will be dropping seedlings at the lands farmed by former Maute gunmen.

He added the soldiers were ordered to build irrigation canals in the former Maute areas.

“It’s a two-way street. We will help them back on their feet. In return, they will do their share of helping us counter violent extremism in these areas,” Brawner said.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC), on the other hand, will provide access to income-generating activities.

PRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon announced they will be distributing sewing machines to over a hundred affected households in an effort to restore livelihood sources.

“The Red Cross is not just about deploying medical tents and providing relief. We are not a handout society. The Red Cross is an organization that enables. This is why it is important that we help people restore their livelihood sources,” Gordon said during a PRC field visit to Marawi City last Monday.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) president Peter Maurer, who is in the country for an official mission, said the organization will continue to address humanitarian concerns of people affected by conflicts.

Since day one of the Marawi siege, the PRC has been working with ICRC to assist the affected communities from relief to recovery.

The joint early recovery operations provided livelihood and shelter repair assistance for a total of 6,014 families from the most affected areas, including over 2,000 returnees who used the P10,000-cash grant to start small businesses.

In Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur, the PRC conducted hygiene-promotion activities and mobilized a network of volunteers to support the ICRC’s improvement of a water and sanitation facility that would benefit 6,000 to 11,000 residents and displaced people.

The PRC and ICRC gave assurance of continued recovery efforts until the people get back on their feet.  – With Rainier Allan Ronda



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