Despite uncertainty in the communities, hundreds of Moro villagers, who fled their homes due to Moro rebels armed conflict in Matalam, North Cotabato, have started to return home Monday, officials here said.
Barangay Manubuan chairperson Melecio Opinaldo said the Muslim evacuees voluntarily agreed to return home, about a week after local officials urged them to return home as peace is now reigning in their communities.
At first, the villagers express reluctance to return for fear fighting between warring clans, who happened to have relatives in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), could erupt again.
North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza, in an earlier, statement, assured the displaced families that peacekeepers have been deployed in Sitio Leonard, Barangay Manubuan wherefierce fighting erupted last month between followers of Dima Ambel of the MNLF and Noah Sabel of the MILF.
Through the efforts of Mendoza, Muslim provincial board members Kellie Antao and Dulia Sultan and the military, Sabel and Ambel came to terms.
Among the major points of the localized truce were the non-carrying of firearms by both sides in Sitio Leonard, that both sides would not resort to armed confrontation should misunderstanding over land issue occur.
Both sides also agreed to allow concerned government agencies like the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to determine real owners of a large parch of agricultural lands in Sitio Leonard.
Opinaldo earlier said that the Manubuan barangay council has passed a resolution asking the military's 602nd Infantry Brigade for the deployment of a permanent Army peacekeeper unit in Sitio Leonard.
However, Capt. Antonio Bulao, speaking for the 602nd Army brigade, said an Army contingent had been deployed in Sitio Leonard following the armed conflict.
The displaced families numbering about 200 have been staying at
Mayor Oscar Valdevieso said the local government unit is hoping the warring families and their relatives in the MILF and MNLF would religiously abide by the agreement.