COTABATO CITY- Civilians who were forced out of their homes due to the ongoing conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are now allowed to return after the intervention of the Philippine Army.

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File photo/Philippine Star

“Our soldiers from the 7th Infantry Batallion will coordinate with local officials so residents can return home and go back to their normal lives,” said Captain Joanne Petinglay, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division in an interview with Philippine Daily Inquirer. “They have nothing to worry about because we have deployed soldiers in their villages to ensure their protection.”

The government security forces launched ground and artillery offensives on February 21, which resulted to the fleeing of BIFF rebels in Barangays Kabasalan, Buliok, and Barongis in the town of Pikit, North Cotabato. The rebels are now said to be staying in Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao.

The conflict between the BIFF and MILF affected 20,000 internally displaced persons, many of which are currently staying in evacuation centers.

The BIFF retreat was confirmed by the group’s spokesperson, Abu Misri Mama. “It’s us versus Army-MILF joint forces. We will not back of, our guerrilla offensive against the Army and group of Commander Jack Abbas will continue up the last drop of our blood.