MANILA - Malacañang on Saturday assured displaced residents in a conflict-torn town in Lanao del Sur of assistance.
In a radio interview, Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will assist communities affected by the ongoing military clashes in Butig, Lanao del Sur province.
''You can be sure that in the refugee areas and mga areas where ang mga kababayan natin are finding refuge, mga evacuation centers, that the DSWD will be there and the various LGUs (local government units) upang mabigyang lunas ang kanilang paghihirap sa panahon na ito,'' Quezon said.
''And it is only through the achievement of peace na makababalik ang mga kababayan natin sa kanilang mga tahanan upang hindi lang bumalik ang katahimikan kundi para manatili ito,'' Quezon said.
He added that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been coordinating with the military as it repositioned its troops to avoid misencounters.
''There have been many successful cases where the MILF has shown good faith and has cooperated with the authorities, precisely to avoid untoward incidents and let us give them their due in this regard,'' Quezon explained.
Meanwhile, he noted that the Armed Forces will verify the information on the possibility that Islamist militants in Butig have links with the Islamic State group.
At least six people have been killed and more than 20,000 displaced during a week of fighting between Islamic militants and security forces in the southern Philippines, authorities said Friday.
3 SOLDIERS KILLED
Three soldiers and three militants were confirmed killed in the clashes, which involved followers of a slain Indonesian leader of a Southeast Asian militant group, the military said.
"There was attack and counter-attack, sniping and counter-sniping, and artillery fire," military spokesman Colonel Noel Detoyato told AFP, describing the fighting that began on Saturday with an attack on a military post.
The military said the group's base, a concrete building on the outskirts of a remote town in a mountainous region of violence-racked Mindanao island, had been overrun on Thursday night following helicopter gunship attacks.
However a local reporter on the scene said clashes continued throughout Friday.
Up to 61 militants were believed to have been killed, although only three bodies had been recovered, according to the military chief with responsibility for the area, Colonel Roseller Murillo.
Murillo and other military officials said they had no firm evidence to confirm the other 58 reported deaths, and would not say how they came up with the number other than that they relied on intelligence reports.
The fighting took place in and around Butig, a small Muslim-populated town surrounded by heavily forested mountains. One two-storey house was in ruins and many others were riddled with bullets, according to the local reporter.
More than 20,000 people had fled their homes, taking refuge in a mosque, government evacuation centers and with relatives, according to civil defense officials. - with Agence France-Presse