Firm suspends mining after ambushPhilippine Daily Inquirer
DIGOS CITY—Xstrata’s Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) has suspended its activities in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, following yet another ambush this week, which was also blamed on armed B’laan natives.
“As part of a precautionary measure all our activities within the project area have been temporarily suspended until further notice,” John Arnaldo, SMI communications chief, said.
The decision was arrived at to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future, he explained.
Arnaldo said the police and military were trying to map out security perimeters in the hinterland villages of Kiblawan, where SMI operates.
SMI has been building several infrastructure facilities in Kiblawan, particularly in Bong Mal and Kimlawis villages in support of its mining project in nearby Tampakan, South Cotabato.
On Tuesday, suspected armed B’laan natives led by the Capion brothers Dagil, Kitara and Batas ambushed another convoy of vehicles associated with SMI.
Davao del Sur police director Senior Supt. Ronaldo Llanera said PO1 Yolly Jean Singkolan was hit in the leg when “bandits,” the police’s term for the armed B’laan natives, fired on the convoy as it was passing by Bongmal.
“The policemen were able to fire back prompting the bandits to withdraw toward the hinterlands,” he said.
Llanera said two high-powered firearms were recovered by pursuing authorities.
The same group was also responsible for last week’s ambush on a patrol car of the Kiblawan police, which killed SMI security consultant retired Supt. Villamendo Hectin and wounded three others, he said.
Llanera said the police had indeed hunted down the B’laan natives but it was difficult to find them considering that the area is infested by the New People’s Army.
Kiblawan Mayor Marivic Diamante said SMI was caught in the middle of a tribal war.
But the National Democratic Front (NDF) said the attacks were tied to the opposition of the B’laans to SMI’s presence. A sister of the Capion brothers had confirmed the NDF’s statement.
Rita Dialang said her brothers were making a “sacrifice in defense of the tribe’s ancestral land and in defense of our way of life.”
“Forest, to us, is like a vast market. We get everything we need out there. It is our hunting ground, our drugstore, our farmland and our sanctuary. Destroy the forest and you also destroy our lives,” she said.
Dialang also said soldiers backing up the SMI have been abusive, which have fueled more the hatred against the mining company.
Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the Dicoce of Marbel said he and the prelates of Kidapawan and Digos have called on President Aquino to take action and stop the violence in the mining area.
He said an investigation on the B’laans’ claims of abuses should also be investigated.
“Malacañang should order an investigation into the alleged abuses by the military and the mining company in the mining area,” Gutierrez said.
Dialang said the attacks would not end until SMI pulls out of the B’laan ancestral domain.
In Opol, Misamis Oriental, Higaonon tribal leaders said violence would likely erupt in areas where the rights of the indigenous communities were ignored because of the government’s preference for mining investors.
“If it is the policy of the President to tolerate mining operations that use heavy equipment, then our communities will be dead,” Datu Mampinohan Norberto Puasan said.
Datu Andreo Dableo said unless the government protects the indigenous peoples, chaos would always occur in mining areas.
There are also several large-scale mining activities in Misamis Oriental, which Higaonon natives have been opposing. Aquiles Zonio, Orlando Dinoy and Tito Fiel, Inquirer Mindanao