• NPA releases four surveyors, driver

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: The New People’s Army (NPA) freed on Monday the four surveyors and vehicle driver they captured on May 30 in Barangay New Leyte, Maco, Compostela Valley.

    The five were released to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte at an undisclosed place in Compostela Valley around 2 p.m.

    Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional (DENR) Regional Director Joselin Marcus Fragada sought Duterte’s assistance in facilitating the safe release of the five survey inspectors and the driver of the vehicle rented by the group.

    Released were Kendrick Wong, Nico Lasaca, Chris Favila, Tim Sabino and driver Jonas Loredo, who were turned over by Duterte to Fragada at Holcim Cement Plant where the mayor was scheduled for a separate event.

    Fragada earlier apologized to the local authorities of Maco, Compostela Valley for non-coordination with the local government unit prior to the conduct of the aerial survey in Barangay New Leyte.

    Fragada said the activity of the survey inspectors from Manila-based Sky Eye UAV, which was commissioned by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENRO), was not also coordinated with the DENR XI, thus he only get to know the surveyors were in the area when he was informed of the abduction last Friday (May 30).

    Daniel Ibarra, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said the five men were captured on May 30 in New Leyte village in Compostela Valley’s Maco town after they were caught flying drones to survey the town.

    The Eastern Mindanao Command earlier said that six DENR surveyors namely Kendrik Wong, Nico Lasaca, Chris Favila, Matthew Cua, Jonas Loredo and Tim Sabina were abducted by gunmen, but the NPA said only five were taken.

    He said the five men were arrested in “culpable violation of the policy of the People’s Democratic Government for bringing in of surveillance gadgets, for undertaking reconnaissance of base guerrillas of the NPA and, thus, abetting the enemy’s counter-revolutionary campaign against the revolutionary forces and environmental plunder.”

    He said the five men were arrested in “culpable violation of the policy of the People’s Democratic Government for bringing in of surveillance gadgets, for undertaking reconnaissance of base guerrillas of the NPA and, thus, abetting the enemy’s counter-revolutionary campaign against the revolutionary forces and environmental plunder.”

    Ibarra said they also seized one Sky Surfer drone and two units of multi-rotor drones, including two laptops and a GPS navigation equipment from the men, who arrived in Maco town on May 28.

    He said the men admitted that they were hired by DENR to conduct an aerial survey and mapping in Maco for the government’s reforestation program.

    The men also told the rebels that they started the survey last year in Bislig, Surigao del Sur; Kapalong, Davao del Norte; Monkayo and Montevista towns in Compostela Valley; Polo–molok, South Cotabato; Tacloban City in Leyte; Panay Island and Appari town in Cagayan.

    Ibarra said the aerial survey and aerial reconnaissance is merely a pretext to intensify “imperialist” mining plunder and counter-revolutionary intelligence in southern Mindanao.

    “The motives of Skyeye’s reconnaissance are suspicious, considering that Maco town is not a hotspot for logging as its forests are largely denuded and its mountains mainly mineral-rich.”

    “It would appear that Skyeye is mainly protecting, if not linked to big mining operations in Maco and mountain boundaries of Pantukan and Mabini, areas under the control of foreign large scale mining concessionaires Apex Mining and St. Augustine Mining Corporation. The DENR’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) use is far from protecting the environment, but is mainly to defend the interest of the big mining companies that are guilty of destroying and plundering our environment,” Ibarra said.

    He said the United States (US) troops deployed in Mindanao also used drones in the past to aid Filipino soldiers in their operations against the NPA in Compostela Valley and Davao City.

    “The NPA denounced the use of drones and other reconnaissance devices that are ultimately indiscriminate weapons of mass genocide and civilian destruction. The UAVs are not only surveillance gadgets, but are also weapons for aerial attacks and strikes, designed and used by US imperialism,” Ibarra said.

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