The Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion (2SFBn) has launched the “fighters to farmers” program in Talipao, Sulu, to provide former Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members with a sustainable livelihood.
The program, according to 2SFBn commander Lt. Col. Benito Ramos Jr., aims to put food on the table for ASG surrenderers and their families.
“This food on the table concept was a success in empowering communities in Basilan. We believe that this will also boost our PCVE (Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism) efforts here in Sulu,” said Ramos.
According to Ramos, the military and the Provincial Task Force in Ending Local Armed Conflict (PTF-ELAC) have built a two-kilometer water system connecting Sitio Tubig Dakula, Barangay Upper Sinumaan, and Barangay Bud Bunga in the municipality of Talipao.
Sulu’s version of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is the PTF-ELAC.
According to Ramos, ASG surrenderers from Talipao town are scheduled to attend agriculture workshops led by soldiers who are familiar with practical and traditional farming techniques.
“They (ASG surrenderers) will also be acquainted with the use of technologies including motorized tillers to increase efficiency and yield,” he added.
The project, according to Capt. Ron Villarosa Jr., commander of the 6th Special Forces Company and project convener of the “Fighters to Farmers” program, will help change the province’s security landscape.
“Food is peace served on the table. By empowering the ASG surrenderers and the community with the means to provide for their basic needs, we are reducing the vulnerability of the ASG surrenderers and the community to be dragged into the conflict in exchange for food, money, or other subsistence,” said Villarosa.
14 ASG bandits have surrendered to government authorities in Talipao, Sulu, since September last year.
Meanwhile, the 11th Infantry Division commander, Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, praised the troops for their ingenuity in dealing with security threats in the province.
“This kind of initiative showcase how committed and professional our modern Army is. We strive to become experts in project development and community organizing through the aid of our partner agencies,” said Gonzales, who is also the Joint Task Force (JTF)-Sulu commander.