KORONADAL CITY—Authorities in several Mindanao provinces, where attacks on mining companies had occurred, have deployed additional troops or placed their men on heightened alert to prevent a repeat of Monday’s raid by the New People’s Army (NPA) on three mining firms in Claver, Surigao del Norte.
National Democratic Front (NDF) spokesperson Jorge Madlos on Wednesday reiterated his earlier warning that more attacks on companies “engaged in destructive mining” were in the offing unless they correct their mistakes.
The NDF is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) whose armed wing is the NPA.
Also on Wednesday, Mel Rivera, spokesperson of the CPP committee in Southern Mindanao, said the communist movement was reiterating its ban on all enterprises, including big foreign mining and logging firms, “that engage in the large-scale plunder of the natural resources, land-grabbing and destruction of the environment.”
“The people’s democratic government has directed the NPA to carry out punitive actions against these mining companies to put a stop to their operations,” Rivera said in a statement e-mailed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In Tampakan, South Cotabato, the police have set up roadblocks as part of the tightened security plan for Xstrata-owned Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), according to Superintendent Resti Damaso, spokesperson of the Central Mindanao police.
In 2008, NPA rebels attacked the SMI compound in Tablu village in Tampakan and burned equipment and facilities.
The rebels fled with several communication equipment and firearms seized from company guards.
In Compostela Valley, which hosts two big mining firms that previously came under NPA attack, the situation remained normal, according to Senior Superintendent Timoteo Pacleb, provincial police chief.
Still, Pacleb said, the more than 700-strong Compostela Valley police force was placed on heightened alert, especially in the towns of Maco, where Apex Mines operates, and in Pantukan, where St. Augustine Copper and Gold Inc. is based.
Apex Mines, partly owned by Crew Gold Ltd. of Britain, was attacked by the NPA in late 2008, with several of its vehicles and equipment also burned and its guards disarmed.
In May, communist rebels also stormed the compound of St. Augustine, a joint venture of local firm Nationwide Development Corp. and US-based Russell Mining. One company guard was killed and several employees were briefly held during the attack. The rebels carted off several high-powered firearms.
Colonel Leopoldo Galon, spokesperson of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City, said soldiers were placed on alert status, especially in areas hosting mines. The command’s operational area includes Caraga, Southern Mindanao, parts of Northern Mindanao and Central Mindanao.
Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over southern Mindanao, said the military maintained close coordination with security officials of mining companies in the region.
“Immediately after the incidents (in Surigao del Norte) we alerted our troops and implemented necessary security measures,” Paniza told the Inquirer by phone.
But Paniza said the military was not keen on deploying soldiers in mining areas in Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley at this time.
He said the security of mining companies was the primary concern of their security officers.
“We do not deploy troops as security details to mining companies, unless there is really an imminent threat,” he said.
In Zamboanga City, Chief Superintendent Elpidio De Asis, police chief for Western Mindanao, said no fresh deployment was needed, especially in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, because the headquarters of the Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion is within the mining area of Toronto Ventures Inc.
In the case of mining companies in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, De Asis said “there is an interagency task force detailed in Balabag village with a platoon each from the police and army.”
Senior Superintendent Jose Bayani Gucela, Zamboanga del Sur police chief, said the local government earlier created Task Force Kalikasan, whose job is to protect mining companies, including small-scale groups. Reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Frinston Lim, Franklin Caliguid, Danni Adorador and Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao