COTABATO CITY: Some 900 families of indigenous peoples (IPs) in the upland town of South Upi, Maguindanao have been displaced by hostilities involving gunmen fighting for control over vast tracts of lands.
Involved in the conflict were members of at least three Teduray factions whose armed members are reportedly trying to defend their ancestral domain against a group of gunmen trying to claim ownership of the land.
Intermittent firefights since last week forced civilians to flee to safer grounds in Barangay Kuya afraid they might be caught in between warring groups.
The clashes were monitored in the peripheries of Barangays Kuya, Pandan, and Pilar, according to local authorities.
Alvin Minted, a Teduray leader, said the gunmen allegedly belong to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who have been firing their guns toward civilian communities to force them to relocate.
“The gunmen are using the conflict to establish a claim over the vast tracts of arable lands, we can no longer return because they are there, heavily armed and have set up encampments and detachments,” Minted said in the vernacular.
Major Gen. Diosdado Carreon, commander of the military’s 6th Infantry Division, said he has directed military commanders in the area to help the local government settle the issue peacefully.
Minted also urged the regional Bangsamoro government to look into the issue affecting IPs in their ancestral domain and prevent the killing of civilians who belong to IP communities.
Personnel from the Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao were sent to the upland community to attend to the immediate needs of the displaced families while its leaders are trying to contain the sporadic armed engagements.