More than 4,000 people fled their homes in two villages of Pikit, North Cotabato, due to alleged sightings of members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) from Mamasapano, Maguindanao, a disaster management official said Friday.

A total of 895 families, or “100 percent,” of residents in Brgy. Kabasalan evacuated their homes while 210 families from Brgy. Barungis also fled, said Cynthia Ortega, head of the North Cotabato Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC).

“One hundred percent of the residents sa Kabasalan, nag-evacuate sila sa Brgy. Bulol,” Ortega said by phone.

“May sightings kasi ng BIFF, believed to be coming from Mamasapano ‘yung mga BIFF, parang pumunta sila sa may Pikit, particularly sa Brgy. Kabasalan, so may displacement,” she said.

Mamasapano is where BIFF forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas clashed with members of the National Police’s Special Action Force (SAF) on January 25.

The clash resulted in the death of 44 members of the elite police unit and 18 MILF guerrillas, while it is unknown if the BIFF also suffered casualties.

To the west of Pikit lies the Liguasan Marsh which, has on its other shore, small villages connected to Mamasapano.

The internally-displaced people are currently staying at a Madrasah (Islamic school), a high school, and relatives’ homes in Brgy. Bulol, Ortega said.

The total number families, 1,105, can be multiplied by four or five to determine the number of displaced individuals, she said.

Ortega said the PDRRMC is currently waiting for the official report on the displacement from the Pikit Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which will conduct relief operations Saturday.

“Bukas sila (Pikit MDRRMC) magre-relief, kami naman, mag-relief kasi sila bukas, mga three days after. That’s the time for the province to come in, augmentation sa relief nila,” Ortega said. (John Roson)

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