The Philippine National Police has offered agricultural plantations, mining industries and other big businesses in Mindanao a win-win solution to stop harassment by the National People’s Army (NPA), which has stepped up attacks against various industries in the region.
In a closed-door meeting between the PNP’s Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) in Western and Eastern Mindanao and the private security forces of the industries, authorities introduced a scheme known as Adopt Your Police Station Program, which will deploy adequate police forces in areas threatened by the rebels.
Senior Supt. Daniel Macatlang Jr. of DIPO-Western Mindanao said the scheme was forged between the PNP and businesses to solve atrocities committed against plantations and other businesses in Mindanao.
Under the scheme, business groups can donate about 500 square meters of land in areas regularly harassed or threatened by rebel forces for a PNP police camp to help secure their businesses.
Under the Adopt your Police Station Program, policemen trained for combat operations will be deployed from their Risk Public Safety Battalion (RSBP), the number of personnel depends on the gravity of the threat.
A police force ranging from a platoon to as big as a battalion can be deployed to stop the rebels’ harassment.
The police component includes the SOCO (Scene of the Crime Operatives) to document what happened during the fight to prevent the rebels’ black propaganda.
Macatlang pointed out that private security guards are not combat-trained to fight the rebels but to function other tcivilian duties.
However, a security manager from a multinational company said, “some industries will not agree to engage the military because of the military’s reputation of being human rights violators.”
He added that allowing the military in their areas will only invite terrorists to make the plantations their battlegrounds.
But other security managers find the scheme a better alternative and more cost effective for industries.
“This is a very good alternative, since we don’t have to hire additional personnel or buy more firearms to organize an organic security force. Adopting a police station looks more viable and sustainable,” a security manager, who requested not to be named for security reasons, said.
Another security manager said the scheme is a win-win solution, since the companies will have more time to focus on production rather than getting worried about their security. The manager said they are augmenting their private security forces by employing [Special CAFGU (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit) Active Auxiliary] (SCAA) because they also encounter the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) in their production areas.
The manager said it is not easy to maintain SCAA because they are deployed on a permanent basis in their production areas and are very expensive. He said their company spends more than P13 million a year for a force of 100 SCAA personnel, and since the MILF forces are large in their areas, they have to employ a big number of SCAA forces on top of their private security forces.
Problem for decades
Insurgency problem has been a major industry problem in Mindanao in the last five decades. The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), commonly referred to as CNN, was reportedly involved in arson, extortion, harassment, black propaganda, infiltration of labor unions and meddling in agribusiness venture agreements.
Of the 52 communist fronts nationwide, 24 are in Eastern Mindanao (46 percent) while the remaining 28 (54 percent) are scattered in the rest of the country.
A couple of years back, the base camp of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. in Tampakan, South Cotabato, then the biggest mining investment, was burned down by rebel forces while its workers were celebrating New Year’s Day.
Last year, the NPAs attacked Mindanao plantations almost on a monthly basis from January until November. They burned heavy equipment, container vans and cargo trucks loaded with bananas in various parts of Mindanao, such as T’boli and Surallah in South Cotabato; Barobo and Lianga in Surigao del Sur; Quezon, Bukidnon; Maco, Compostela Valley; and Maasim, Sarangani Province.
The attacks stopped, probably because of the annual ceasefire agreement during December, but the NPAs stepped up their violent activities against the plantation from late January up to last week.
The attacks covering the period from January 22 to March 15, 2016, have already surpassed the number of attacks for the whole of 2015.
The NPAs burned four Martignani spray trucks, a warehouse inside a packing house compound and other heavy equipment from eight different plantations in Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte, Sarangani and South Cotabato. They have also bombed transmission towers in various parts of Mindanao.
The turbulent situation in Mindanao could stop further expansion of the plantations, at the very least, but it could worsen when industries start packing up and leaving for other countries aiming to grab the lucrative fruit export market in Asia and the Middle East from Mindanao exporters.