More troops coming to Caraga, says 4ID commander

PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 22 Jan) – More soldiers will be deployed to the Caraga Region but more for “development and not war,” according to Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.

During the Agusan del Sur Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Committee meeting at the capitol here Wednesday, Lactao explained that he could not yet reveal further details about the troops’ size and deployment since finalization of the talks is still ongoing in the Army’s general headquarters.

“The additional forces that we will be deploying will assist us in our ongoing operation and would greatly help to decrease the level of violence on certain strategic areas. But I would like to reiterate that the bottom line here is development and not war, to assist the ongoing government projects and developmental efforts in the province,” Lactao said.

The commander said that aside from the Army troops, there will be more Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) elements that will be added in the area where there are ongoing Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) operations.

“But no matter how many troops we’ll add it’s still worthless if we won’t have the cooperation and support of the stakeholders,” Lactao said. “It is after all a shared responsibility with our counterparts in the police, public officials and the people. As we progress and develop, the armed struggle would be irrelevant,” he said, referring to the New People’s Army (NPA).

Gov. Adolf Edward Plaza pointed out the need for the military’s support on the province’s development plans and efforts. “Before the meeting started the army had a courtesy call and we had a leveling off on what should be done so that we can continue what we are trying to do and achieve,” he added.

Plaza said he is particularly worried in the province’s upland sustainable agri-forestry development in the highlands because of the poverty incidence, and thus people are more vulnerable to recruitment by the NPA.

The Army and the police, he said, can thus help a lot in those areas.

“We are focusing our efforts now on the hard to reach upland areas so people there will feel that they are not left behind and forgotten,” Plaza said.