ARMM relief operations in Butig ongoing as LGU Summit continues
Davao City (December 1, 2016) — As local executives gathered in Davao City for the 3rd ARMM Local Government Summit, Butig Mayor Dilanggalen “Jimmy” Pansar chose to remain in his municipality as the military “recovered” most of the barangays that were occupied by the Maute group.
The mayor, however, was represented by other municipal officials from Butig, Lanao del Sur. Among them was Abdul Pansar, Butig’s Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator.
According to Pansar, the poblacion of Butig is where the first encounters between the military and the Maute group happened roughly a week ago.
On November 30, the said area was “recovered” by the military, along with most of the other barangays affected by the ongoing conflict.
“There are still firefights in the forest areas within the skirts of the municipality, but control in the town proper itself has already been regained” he said.
Pansar, however, is far from at ease.
As the LGU Summit began in Davao yesterday, ARMM Regional Vice Governor and concurrent DSWD-ARMM Regional Secretary Haroud Al-Rashid Lucman Jr. was in Butig to conduct relief operations in the area. Together with DSWD-ARMM and ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (ARMM HEART), he was assisted by the municipal government of Butig along with the barangay captains in the area.
Lucman noted how the conflict has affected the lives of the people in Butig. “Classes, for one, have been suspended because the schools are currently not functioning,” he said.
“People have lost much of their property, especially in barangays such as Bayabao Poblacion where houses were razed to the ground by members of the Maute group,” he added. “Some of the people have nothing left aside from the clothes on their backs.”
Military operations are still ongoing in the municipality. During the conduct of relief operations, Lucman noted that “the sound of bombs going off can be heard from afar while our relief operations are ongoing.”
The vice governor also mentioned that “it is relatively difficult to conduct relief operations in Lanao del Sur because most internally displaced persons (IDPs) stay with their relatives and not in evacuation centers.”
Need for recovery
The military has recovered 85 to 90 percent of Butig municipality, a military spokesperson said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Field Office XII placed the number of IDPs at 12,250.
“Almost everybody chose to evacuate. Some went to nearby barangays, while residents of the same nearby barangays also chose to leave,” Pansar said.
The local and regional government, together with the DSWD field office, have already distributed food packs as part of their quick response and relief operations.
When asked about further needs of Butig residents, Pansar emphasized the need for support in “recovery” efforts. With only about 2,000 evacuees staying in three evacuation centers, Pansar said the local and regional government are “still monitoring the whereabouts of all the displaced people.”
Pansar also notes the crops in the area awaiting harvest.
“We really need to focus on recovery as we prepare to assist residents of Butig when they return. Some of them still have rice and coffee left idle in the fields, especially coffee since it’s scheduled for harvest,” he said.
No room for complacency
“Most of the areas affected by the conflict have already been recovered, but operations are still ongoing especially in parts of Brgy. Sandab Madaya, Brgy. Sundig, and a portion of Brgy. Dolangan,” Pansar said.
When asked if the Maute group still poses a threat to the municipality, Pansar said it depends on government response.
“If the government will be complacent, the Maute group can regroup and return. But if targeted government operations continue, the group will continue to weaken, maybe even be eliminated completely,” Pansar said.
Pansar notes that only a few residents of Butig are involved in the local terror group, with “most of the members coming from other municipalities and provinces.”
“Our goal is really to help the people return to their communities,” he added.
Pansar said that “coordination with the military will also be crucial in the residents’ return,” as Lucman assured that “coordination with the military forces have been constant throughout the operations.”
The municipal government also notes the prevalence of misinformation about their situation, especially online.
“Many misconceptions have to be addressed, especially in Facebook where a lot of false information are posted,” Pansar said.
He cited the posts that claimed that Butig’s seat of government was taken by ISIS as an example.
“The old municipal hall that was taken by the Maute group was already abandoned early this year. After the recently concluded elections, we transferred the seat of government to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) building,” he said, “so when they said that Butig was conquered by ISIS, that clearly wasn’t true.”
“I hope people will be more responsible in saying things online,” he said. “There are many sources of verified information and we should turn to these sources instead of spreading misinformation.”