Google map of Pikit municipality, North Cotabato.

COTABATO CITY – Skirmishes erupted between two armed groups of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Pikit, North Cotabato Wednesday night, sending some 50 families scampering to safer areas.

“There were evacuees but many stayed with their relatives in nearby communities,” Maj. Maxim Peralta, Pikit police chief, told reporters Thursday.

Involved in the sporadic fighting using mortars and rocket-propelled grenades were followers of Bugdad Akas and Walid Mamasamlang, both MILF local leaders in Barangay Macabual. No casualty has been reported.

The village, with a population of around 4,500 per 2020 census, now forms part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) after opting to join the fledging region during a two-part plebiscite in 2019.

Peralta said the clan war erupted after the murder of Barangay Macabual chairperson Jalandoni Matalam Akas last month.

He said the Akas family has accused Mamasamlang as the perpetrator.

Peacekeeping forces have been deployed near the village of Macabual to prevent a conflict spillover, he said, adding that emissaries from the MILF central committee had also been sent to defuse tension.

Peralta said while the village is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Pikit police, they still provide security to adjacent communities that are still part of the municipality.

“We earlier evacuated because of floods, and now due to the ‘rido’ or clan war,” said Anok Bugasan, a resident of Macabual, who fled with his family and stayed at a relative’s home in Barangay Poblacion.

Floods in low-lying communities of Pikit have displaced at least 10,000 people after the Rio Grande de Mindanao and its tributaries overflowed the past four days following heavy downpours in North Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces. (PNA)