Rangers arrive in Butuan; more troops coming to Caraga

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BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/19 February) – A battalion of the elite Scout Rangers arrived on Monday in this city in what a military official said was part of heightened efforts against the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Caraga Region.

The 4th Scout Ranger Battalion (4SRB) arrived at the 402nd Infantry Brigade headquarters in Barangay Bancasi onboard a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

“The 4SRB is not the only battalion that will augment the forces here in Caraga region. We believe that there will be more troops coming to the region,” said 1Lt Joe Patrick Martinez, the brigade civil-military operations officer.

Martinez revealed that another Army battalion had been deployed in Agusan del Sur early this month.

“The 3rd Special Forces Battalion based in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur just activated its operational status around the first week of February and will be supporting our forces between the provinces of Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur and parts of Surigao del Norte,” he said.

He said the arrival of more troops will help them cover more areas across the region.

Lt. Col. Freddie de la Cruz, 4SRB commanding officer, pointed out that his unit is not new to Caraga.

“We have been assigned here after the May 2013 election and was pulled out to support our troops during the Zamboanga siege. We were then assigned in North Cotabato to help in the campaign against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters a few weeks ago and then we got the order to come back here,” said Dela Cruz.

He stressed their arrival should not be a cause for alarm since they are going to work hand in hand with the communities.

“We are only here for the interest and benefit for the people in Caraga region and to work hand in hand with them in assisting and providing support for peace and development. So far, right now we still haven’t received our orders as to the area of operation,” he said.

Last January, Maj. General Ricardo Visaya, commander of the 4th Infantry Division revealed in an interview that the division was expecting three battalions to arrive in Caraga region to augment the operational capability of the army.

But Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-Mindanao hit the new military deployment.

“The arrival of more troops will create problems especially for the communities since it will put people in harm’s way and will displace them as more operations would be conducted. We have seen human right violations having been committed in the past brought in by military operations,” said Madlos in a radio interview.

He said the deployment of additional troops was meant to protect large corporations that rob the region of its resources.

“This plan to put in more troops is a sure indication in paving way for rich plantations, mining and logging business to come in and rob our people from their basic rights to our lands. They are not here for the people but for the benefit of the greedy corporations,” he said. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)

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