ZAMBOANGA CITY: Communist rebels have owned up the attack on a construction firm working on government dam project in the southern Philippines.
Ka Isabel Fermiza, a spokesman for the New People’s Army Mount Apo Sub-Regional Command, said the project is threatening to damage a major source of drinking water in North Cotabato’s Arakan town and other parts of Davao City and affected thousands of peasants in the process.
Fermiza said the project is linked to a planned stock farm pasture land program in Mount Sinaka watershed area and part of the 4,100 hectares of University of the Philippines-Mindanao Reservation in the village of Datu Ladayon in Arakan town.
“Without even bothering to secure a token environmental compliance certificate from the reactionary regime’s own environment agency, project proponents have went [sic]on to pursue the dam construction, at the expense of Mount Sinaka, an important watershed area that is also home to wildlife, rich forests and endangered species,” Fermiza said.
She also accused Agriculture Assistant Secretary Dante de Lima of bribing farmers to give up their lands and transform it into stock farms, and even village officials.
“Worse, Assistant Secretary Dante de Lima of the Department of Agriculture also spearheaded in bribing peasants to give up their lands and transform it into stock farms for hundreds of cattle; one cattle head would need one hectare of land. The land-grabbing in the name of a cattle project would dislocate thousands of vegetable farmers in the area,” Fermiza claimed.
She said the rebels torched at least five heavy equipment used in the project.
“The NPA not only targeted de Lima’s project due to its huge environmental impact and the dislocation of peasants, but also because it committed gross abuses of workers’ rights. Daily wage for lowly dam construction workers is at P200 a day with 10-percent deduction to be pocketed by village officials, while for stock farm workers, P150 daily for 10 hours of work,” Fermiza alleged.
Fermiza warned that rebels will continue its operation against “destructive” projects.
“The NPA is sending the message that it will not tolerate destructive projects that are grossly disadvantageous to the people. The NPA punishes capitalists and reactionary agents responsible for plundering the forests, introducing projects that will further exacerbate the disastrous impact of climate change, and dislocate lowly peasants and abuse workers,” she said, adding Mount Sinaka is one of the remaining forest frontiers in the boundary of Davao and North Cotabato provinces.
There was no immediate statement from the Department of Agriculture about Fermiza’s allegations.
The NPA has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate Maoist state in the country.