ZAMBOANGA CITY: Communist insurgents stormed a mining firm and torched several equipment in the southern Philippine province of Compostela Valley, the military said Friday.
It said troops were dispatched to hunt down the raiders – the New People’s Army – which have been fighting for a separate state in the largely Catholic country.
There were no reports of casualties in Thursday’s attack, but the daring raid on Apex Mining Company only showed the determination of the rebel group to put a stop to large scale mining operations in the mineral-rich region, particularly in areas where indigenous communities thrive.
Tribesmen have longed complained against the intrusion of huge mining firms into their ancestral domain and sought help from the rebels to stop the destruction of their lands and exploitation of their natural resources.
Army Captain Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the raid occurred in the town of Maco where the mining firm operates. He said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, the regional military chief, has ordered troops to help police secure the town and at the same time pursue the attackers.
“General Cruz has ordered troops to assist the police in its law enforcement operations. He said all legal business establishments should be protected from NPA attacks, deception and extortion,” Caber told The Manila Times by phone from the military base in Davao City.
He said the rebels have been extorting money from mining firms and even civilians to raise money for terror attacks in the region.
The NPA earlier warned mining firms to stop its operations in Mindanao or face assault. Just recently, rebel forces also swooped down on Philippine Alstron Mining Company on the village of Tamamarkay in Agusan del Norte’s Tubay town and they burned several trucks and other heavy equipment. The rebels also ransacked the firm’s arsenal after overpowering the guards without firing any shot.
Among their other targets are Russell Mines and Minerals, Extrata, and Philco in southern Mindanao; Dolefil, Del Monte and Sumifru plantations in northern Mindanao; TVI Resource Development Philippines in western Mindanao whose operations inside the ancestral domain of indigenous Subanen and Moro tribes are being opposed by villagers.
NPA and Moro rebels had previously attacked TVI Resources in Zamboanga province. TVI Resource Development Philippines has recently ended its gold mining operation in Mount Canatuan in Zamboanga del Norte’s Siocon town after several years of operations and now has a gold-silver project in the town of Bayog in Zamboanga del Sur province and a nickel plant in Agusan del Norte province, also a known stronghold of the communist rebel group.
Jorge Madlos, a regional rebel spokesman, said military operations in Mindanao have escalated and have become more extensive with the aim to thwart the ever growing and widespread people’s protest against destructive mining operations. AL JACINTO