NPA attacks cause worry on mining industry—Mines and Geosciences Bureau
MANILA, Philippines—Monday’s attacks by communist rebels on mining areas in Claver, Surigao del Norte are sending jitters to the mining industry and the message that investments might not be safe without tight security, officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said Tuesday.
“Any assault on a mine is a serious thing. There are investments there. A mining project is capital-intensive. If you hear such news of an attack, it’s a cause for worry for the industry,’’ MGB director Leo Jasareno said in an interview by phone.
Jasareno conceded that the raid on Taganito Mining Corp., Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp. and Platinum Group Metals Corp. and the burning of their equipment by New People’s Army members would take its toll on the investment climate in general.
Besides, such attacks threatened the livelihood of thousands of Filipinos employed by the mines, and the income revenue of the government, he added.
“It will definitely have an adverse impact. Investments are placed at risk by such attacks,’’ said the official, who received a flurry of text messages from stakeholders expressing concern. “Imagine now an investment without security. While this is an isolated incident, it poses risks to investments.’’
NPA rebels swooped on the companies’ mining areas and torched 10 dump trucks, eight backhoes, two barges and a guest house, smashed computers and seized several guns from private security guards, according to police and military officials.
The military claimed that the mining firms’ refusal to pay revolutionary taxes prompted the attacks. But an NPA leader alleged that the mines violated the group’s policies on the environment by destroying the environment and maltreating their employees.
There are 30 metallic mines across the country, including 10 in Surigao del Norte.
Jasareno said that it’s the call of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, tasked by President Aquino to secure the mines, whether to beef up the security of the mines following the attacks.
“I agree it’s an isolated case. They were able to attack the mines with the military not being able to respond immediately. That’s not always the case. The military has been given directives to protect investments and it is strategically located to respond immediately,’’ he said.
While any mine was prepared for such a scenario, Jasareno suggested that the three mines consider tapping the military-trained civilian force, the special civilian armed auxiliary (SCAA), as the mining firm TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. had done in Zamboanga del Norte in the past to thwart rebel attacks.
He recalled that TVI had “successfully overcome’’ the attacks by the rebels, thanks to the SCAA.
“It’s a civilian force trained by the military. It serves as a security force of the TVI in Zamboanga del Norte. It has been effective. We can look at it in the course of the situation. It might be good for protection,’’ he said, but stopped short of recommending it. “This can be considered in the course of reviewing security procedures.’’
In 2002, the Commission on Human Rights concluded that TVI’s SCAA harassed residents, including the Subanon tribe who lived in a part of Siocon town covered by the firm’s mining area.
It observed that SCAA members, who were trained, armed and given allowance by the AFP, and were tasked with aiding government troops in maintaining law and order in the mining areas, served the mining firm to the point of harassing the residents.
Jasareno could not confirm military reports that unpaid revolutionary taxes prompted the attacks, as well as claims by the rebel group that the mines destroyed the environment and maltreated their employees.
He, however, said that the MGB was dispatching a team to assess the compliance of mines in Surigao, including those attacked, with environmental rules and regulations.
“Whether those are true or not, we’re doing an assessment of their environmental performance. We’re not leaving anything to chance,’’ he said, stressing that the MGB would impose sanctions on erring mines, from the issuance of notice of violation to suspension of operations, if warranted.
When Environment Secretary Ramon Paje appeared before the Commission on Appointments in late August, his confirmation was blocked by several environmental protection advocates over destructive mining activities in Mindanao, among other issues.
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