Philippines: NPA rebels behind mining attacks raise four demands

by BEN SERRANO

10/04/2011

Leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA) group that launched the attacks have laid down a number of demands to concerned government agencies and the mining industry.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, NPA spokespersons ‘Ka Edroy’ and ‘Ka Maria Malaya’ said that into stop the attacks, concerned groups must address four issues:

1. Mining firms must settle royalty fees and other benefits intended for rightful indigenous people affected by mining activities;
2. Address environmental woes brought by mining in the area as soon as possible;
3. Stop all mining operations and construction of the nickel ore processing plants; and
4. Address local mine workers’ complaints of low wages.‘Ka Edroy’ added that the warning goes out not only to the attacked firms, but to all mining and logging companies in the Caraga region.

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) director Jake Miranda confirmed that NPA made such demands, which were received by the Provincial Crisis Committee headed by Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol Forcadilla Matugas.

The four-decade-old rebel group is against foreign mining companies in the Philippines, which they accuse of displacing indigenous peoples from their communities.

“Isolated case”

Meanwhile, Malacañang described as an “isolated case” the rebel attacks on three mining firms in Surigao del Norte on Monday.

In a statement issued on Monday, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the individuals involved are out of harm’s way and that the Palace is “continuously monitoring the situation.”

“At present, all foreign nationals working at the sites have been accounted for and are unharmed,” he said, adding that local employees are also safe.

Ochoa said the incident will not stop the Aquino administration “from luring investors into the country to help spur the economy and improve the lives of our people.”

Series of attacks

On Monday morning, around 400 members of the NPA launched a series of attacks on three mining firms.

The rebels took several mining officers and security guards captive. Among them were 20 Japanese consultants.

The hostages were dropped off seven kms. away from the Taganito site at around 3 p.m. the same day, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said, adding that the rebels gathered the mining executives to make their demands about the rights of indigenous groups.

Robredo disclosed that around 75 percent of the mining facilities were destroyed after suspects bombed and burned the mining compound.

In a separate report, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias said 10 dump trucks, eight backhoes, two barges, and a guest house were burned by the rebels, who belong to Guerrilla Front 16, 30, and 21.

After the incident, the three companies involved announced that they will temporarily close down because of the extent of damages.

Officials of the Taganito Mining Corp., where the attacks began, said they cannot determine when they can resume operations. -RJMD/VVP

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