Families displaced by sporadic clashes start returning home in North Cotabato

Published November 3, 2020, 7:23 AM

by Philippine News Agency

MATALAM, North Cotabato (PNA) – About 200 villagers from the far-flung Barangay Arakan here were able to return home Monday after sporadic encounters between government forces and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels forced them to flee their homes last October 24.

Vice Mayor Cheryl Valdevieso-Catamco of Matalam, North Cotabato (center), hands over a pack of relief goods to one of 200 evacuees before they returned home Monday (Nov. 2, 2020) in Arakan village. The villagers (inset) fled their homes since Oct. 24 following sporadic clashes between government troopers and the communist New People’s Army rebels. (Photo courtesy of 603rd IBde/ PNA/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Barangay Arakan Chairperson Harold Mantawil said the affected families were all residents of Sitio Valdevieso, who took shelter at a covered court in Sitio Kulog since the start of the skirmishes more than a week ago.

Local government officials ordered the evacuees’ return after the military assured the safety of the civilians, Mantawil said.

“The villagers’ livelihood was also affected because they were forced to leave their livestock and farms for safety, ” he added.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) conducted relief operations on Monday, distributing food packs and other essentials for the displaced families.

“Trickles of evacuees slowly came to the Sitio Kulog evacuation site since last week,” Matalam Vice Mayor Cheryl Valdevieso-Catamco said.

Brig. Gen.  Roberto Capulong, commander of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the series of clashes erupted after NPA rebels fired on soldiers belonging to the Army’s 90th Infantry Battalion while conducting foot patrol in Barangay Arakan on October 24.

During the pursuit operation, Capulong said government troopers managed to “neutralize” Zaldy Gulmatico Pulido, secretary-general of the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 53.

Capulong said pursuit operations were continuing against the rebels, who had splintered into smaller groups in the peripheries of the two provinces.