More cops sent to troubled mine areaBy Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
ILOILO CITY—The Philippine National Police in Western Visayas has sent more policemen to an island in Carles town in Iloilo following the killing of two employees of a mining firm there.
Chief Supt. Cipriano Querol Jr., PNP director for Western Visayas, said 14 policemen were deployed to Calagna-an Island in Carles, 147 kilometers northeast of this city, to prevent more violence in the area.
George Torres and Dante Villanueva, security guard and employee of the Calagna-an Island Agro-Industrial Corp. (Caico), were shot dead by heavily armed men last Sunday.
Police have identified Cocoy Jopson and Jojie Belmonte as suspects in the killings. Police said they fled to Negros Occidental aboard a motorboat after the shooting.
Quoting results of initial investigation, Querol said the victims and the suspects were all Caico employees.
The shooting erupted after Torres confronted the two suspects for carrying firearms inside the mining area, Querol said.
“While we receive reports that there are illegal mining activities on the island, the incident does not appear to be an offshoot of rivalry between groups engaged in mining,” he said.
Caico holds a 25-year mining lease contract to search for and extract minerals, including clay and gold. The contract covers a 790-hectare area and was issued in 1988, said Leo Van Juguan, the regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
Juguan said mining by Caico had stopped but results of a fact-finding mission by MGB showed that mining by other persons goes on.
MGB was unable to identify those involved in illegal mining.
Querol has also ordered an investigation of the alleged involvement of two police officials in mining on the island.