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ARMM, NGOs start rebuilding conflict-torn Lanao villages

 • 17:51 PM Fri Mar 4, 2016
John Unson
ARMM health workers coordinate with soldiers their entry to conflict-stricken areas in Butig town to extend medical services to evacuees. JOHN UNSON

MARAWI CITY -- Government agencies and peace advocacy groups will cooperate in returning thousands of evacuees from conflict-stricken barangays in Lanao del Sur’s Butig town, officials said Friday.Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, regional vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART), the office of Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr., and different private outfits are now formulating convergent action plans to hasten the restoration of normalcy in Butig. We are grateful to various non-government organizations in Lanao del Sur, including two-way radio clubs and the ARMM leadership for focusing extensive attention on the plight of evacuees,” said Lucman, an ethnic Maranaw from Bayang town in Lanao del Sur.Army combatants and extremists claiming allegiance to the Independent State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had fought running firefights for ten days in Butig’s adjoining Barangays Poktan and Ragayan, where the outlawed group had established enclaves, whose original settlers they subjected to a ruthless Taliban-style justice system.Soldiers on Tuesday hoisted the Philippine flag at the abandoned lair of the extremists, led by siblings Omar and Abdullah Maute, now both on the run, following 10 days of sporadic clashes that exacted casualties on both sides.The hostilities dislocated some 10,000 peasant families, relying only on corn and rice propagation as main source of income.The HEART, operating under the control of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, initially dispersed on Thursday, through Lucman and representatives from the Lanao del Sur provincial government, more than two tons of relief supplies for evacuees from Barangays Poktan and Ragayan.Lucman said Hataman wants the evacuees assisted in their return to their abandoned villages, provided with social welfare and health interventions needed to ensure their speedy recovery from the devastations and trauma the conflict had caused them. Tension has waned considerably. We are to focus now on restoration of normalcy in the area and in rebuilding the lives of the conflict-affected people there,” Lucman said.Lucman said one plan on how to avert a repeat of the hostilities in Butig is to tap the support of traditional leaders,Maranaw elders and moderate clerics in overseeing domestic peace and security programs meant to address extremism and Islamic militancy.Physician Allen Minalang, chief of the Lanao del Sur Integrated Provincial Health Office, said Army officials had announced, during a municipal peace and order council (MPOC) meeting on Thursday in Butig, their offensive against the extremists are over.Minalang and his co-workers in the provincial health office extended on Tuesday medical services to hundreds of evacuees cramped in evacuation sites in a relief mission supported by the executive department of ARMM.Minalang said local officials and barangay leaders in Butig assured, during the MPOC meeting, to do their best to prevent the extremists from coming back to establish a shadow government again. The displaced people can now return to their villages,” Minalang said.

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