By Edwin Fernandez
COTABATO CITY: The municipal social welfare office of Pikit in North Cotabato has started distributing relief aid to more than 1,000 families affected by the armed hostilities involving Moro clans in the area.
“There appeared to be silence in the conflict area so we started to come in to help the families who are fasting now,” said Mayor Sumulong Sultan of Pikit on Tuesday.
He directed the municipal social welfare office, headed by Imelda Balios, to start distributing food aid and water to affected families from Barangays Balongis, Balatican and Nuangan, all of Pikit.
Balios reported that a total of 1,032 families or 4,574 individuals have been displaced by the conflict. They are now housed in various evacuation sites in Barangay Batulawan, Kalakakan, Dalengaoen and Fort Pikit.
Sultan said all displaced families are Muslims who are observing the fasting month of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, efforts are underway to put an end to the clan war that has affected hundreds of Moro families in the border of Maguindanao and North Cotabato,.
Lt. Col. Edgardo Vilchez Jr, spokesperson of the military’s Joint Task Force Central, said the Army is following a peace mechanism through the Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF CCCH).
Involved in the “rido” (family feud) were members of the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who have been at odds over control of vast tracts of agricultural lands in the borders of Pikit, North Cotabato and Pagalungan in Maguindanao.
Military reports identified the warring factions as those belonging to MNLF sub-commanders Jainudin Butuan and Kuwat, and the group of MILF 110th base command sub-commanders Abdul Hamid Sansawi, Sambutuan and Ekot.
The local government units of Pikit and Pagalungan, led by Mayors Sultan and Salik Mamasabulod, respectively, had been meeting to ensure the safety of families affected by the hostilities that erupted full-scale on Sunday.
Vilchez told reporters that the fighting had slowed down and that no major skirmishes involving the warring families.
“The parties have been at odds since 2013 but the military came up with a local peace agreement. Sporadic skirmishes, however, occur now and then,” he said.
He said the GPH-MILF CCCH is working, as well as the Ad hoc Joint Action Group, are pushing for the peaceful settlement of the conflict.
Elements of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade have been sent to the peripheries of the affected villages.
Vilchez said hostilities has been confined in the village of Balongis and that fighting has stopped since Monday.