BUTUAN CITY, Agusan del Sur – Communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas staged simultaneous raids on two multinational mining firms operating in Claver, Surigao del Norte, on Monday morning.
Superintendent Martin Gamba, spokesperson of the police in the Caraga Region, said the rebels, wearing police uniforms and were onboard several dump trucks, simultaneously swooped down on the compounds of Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC) and Platinum Group Metals Corp., (PGMC), both in the village of Taganito at 10 a.m..
Gamba said the rebels also took four people as hostages, including Jose Anievas, the resident manager of TMC.
Gamba said the company guards manning the TMC and PGMC were outnumbered and were forced to abandon their posts.
Gamba said the rebels set on fire the TMC administrative office, several dump trucks and mining equipment.
Before retreating, the rebels also bombed three mining barges docked at the firm’s wharf.
“An estimated 300 NPA rebels carried out the raids on TMC and PGMC,” Gamba told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
As of press time, Gamba, said police have not assessed the extent of damage on the nearby PGMC area, citing continued skirmishes between pursuing troops and the rebels.
Gamba believed the companies’ refusal to give in to NPA’s demand for revolutionary tax prompted the attack.
The NPA attacks came days after a rebel leader in Mindanao called on his followers to dismantle “environmentally-exploitative and destructive large-scale mining companies” operating in Caraga Region.
Jorge Madlos alias Ka Oris, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in Mindanao, said the Aquino administration’s blatant disregard for, and inaction on the issue of protecting the environment have caused displacements of indigenous communities and massive environmental havoc.
“The revolutionary movement shall continue to uphold and to carry our national policy of banning and dismantling large-scale mining, logging and agri-business companies with a track record of violating revolutionary policies,” Madlos said in a statement.
The TMC and PGMC are among the country’s leading exporters of nickel ore to Japan, China and Australia.
Its mining operations in the hinterlands of Claver were marred with controversies amid alleged irregularities in the acquisition of mine permits, displacements of the lumad (indigenous people) communities and environmental destruction.
In May, the Tribal Coalition of Mindanao Inc. (Tricom) asked the Supreme Court to cancel mining permits, licenses and agreements granted to TMC, PGMC and three other mine firms over supposed spurious tribal consent documents in securing its licenses and permits.
Tribal communities also alleged that open pit mines operated by the mining companies have posed danger to the environment and the health of the lumad communities in Claver.
Sporadic clashes between soldiers and communist rebels were being reported in Claver and adjacent towns of Gigacuit and Bacuag as government troops pursued the rebels responsible for the raids.
No casualties have been reported from the clashes, said Colonel Rodrigo Diapana, commander of the Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade based in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.
“There are firefights but we have no report of casualties yet. More troops have been deployed as part of our relentless pursuit operation against the rebels,” Diapana said by phone.
Diapana said pursuing troops blocked the escape routes of the rebels and have been scouring the forests of Surigao del Sur where the rebels might be hiding.