ZAMBOANGA CITY: The New People’s Army (NPA) rebels owned up a daring attack on a nickel mining firm in Mati City in Davao Oriental over the weekend.
Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman, said NPA forces swooped down on the compound of Mil-Oro Mining Corporation in the village of Macambol over the weekend and destroyed mining equipment, including five backhoes and four road graders.
Rebels also seized two rifles, six shotguns and ammunition and several military radio sets from the firm’s security force, including several company vehicles.
Chief Insp. Leonilo Lad, of Mati police force, said at least 15 gunmen were involved in the raid that destroyed some P100 million in properties.
The Mil-Oro operates an open-pit mining technique in Mati owned by transnational Austral-Asia Link Mining Corp., whose environmental compliance certificate was revoked last year by former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez for its alleged destructive operations, according to Sanchez.
“It has been operating since 2015 under the patronage and behest of current Davao Oriental Rep. Corazon Malanyaon, who was Davao Oriental governor at that time, and has continuously allowed the incursion of destructive mining companies in protected areas in the province,” he said.
Sanchez said Mil-Oro’s operations straddle almost 5,000 hectares of the protected areas of Pujada Bay and Mount Hamiguitan range, declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a World Heritage Site in 2014.
“For almost three years now, masses in the surrounding barangay (villages), especially poor fisher folk whose livelihood depend on the area’s rich marine biodiversity, have been complaining against the mining operation of Mil-Oro. Many Lumad and peasant families have also been displaced to make way for the expansion of its operation,” he said.
“For years, the so-called mining industry in Davao Oriental and elsewhere in the region has amassed billions in yearly profit for big compradors and their foreign partners but hardly made any difference to the lives and livelihood of poor peasants, lumad and workers where mining companies operate. Worse, when their exploration permits expire or get cancelled, like in the case of Austral-Asia Link Mining Corp. which owns Mil-Oro, these companies skirt reactionary laws by simply using dummy corporations to continue their extensively extractive mining practices and further destroy the environment,” he added.
The rebel spokesman said the latest punitive action continues the NPA’s duty in protecting the country’s natural resources and an exercise of the political authority of the People’s Democratic Government.