ZAMBOANGA CITY – The New People’s Army ambushed government troops in Compostela Valley where the communist rebel group earlier attacked two mining firms it accused of destroying the environment.
Daniel Ibarra, a spokesman for the NPA, said the latest rebel attacks over the weekend was a follow-up to an earlier raid on the US-owned St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd., and the Malaysia-owned Apex Mining on April 7 and 10.
Ibarra said a still undetermined number of government soldiers were either killed or wounded in the attack that targeted the 9th Infantry Battalion deployed at the Apex tenement complex in the village of Masara in Maco town.
He said the two mining companies “grossly and repeatedly violated regulations of the People’s Democratic Government with regards to environmental protection, workers’ welfare and people’s livelihood.”
He said rebel forces destroyed mining tunnels, trucks and heavy equipment of Apex Mining, including portable drills owned by St. Augustine mines in Pantukan town.
The NPA spokesman said tribesmen have long complained against the intrusion of huge mining firms in 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 Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, the regional military chief, has ordered troops to pursue the attackers. 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 has warned mining firms to stop operations in Mindanao or face assault.