ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 27, 2011) – Communist rebels have owned up Sunday to the raid on a mining firm they accused of destroying forests in the southern Philippines and warned of more attacks in the restive, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao.
Ka Norsen, a spokesman for the New People’s Army Julito Tiro Command, said the recent attack on Eagle Mining Company in Bukidnon province was in retaliation to its continued operation which is being opposed by tribesmen and environmentalists.
“Punitive action was handed down to the said company for its environmentally-destructive mining operations, for ignoring the demand of the Lumad tribesmen in the area and church people for mining to stop, and, for threatening to file cases against and summarily killing some leaders who opposed the operations of the company,” the spokesman said.
The allegations could not be immediately confirmed, but the military said the attack on the mining firm destroyed five of its heavy equipment. It said the rebels raided the mining firm after its owner failed to pay extortion money.
But the rebels denied the accusations and claimed security forces were protecting mining operations in exchanged for money.
“The claim of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, saying that the EMC was given sanction due to non-payment of revolutionary taxes, is a big lie. In truth, the Armed Forces of the Philippines protect these companies that destroy the environment, and it is one of their sources of corruption,” Ka Norsen said.
He said rebel forces were ordered to dismantle destructive mining operations in Mindanao.
“The revolutionary movement cannot permit the continued destruction of the remaining natural resources of the country, which results in devastating calamities, such us flooding and the destruction of peasant livelihood,” he said, adding “for as long as the strength of our forces permit, we shall work to ban, dismantle and disable all businesses that damage the environment and people’s livelihood, and those which do not conform to the policies and programs of the revolutionary movement.”
The rebels have earlier threatened to launch attacks on logging firms they accused of operating near protected watersheds and virgin forests in Mindanao.
New People’s Army rebels also accused these firms of engaging in destructive logging in Diwata Mountain Range in southern Mindanao; Kalatungan-Kitanglad Mountain Range in northern Mindanao; and mountain forests in the provinces of Compostela Valley, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat and Zamboanga del Norte where Subanen tribesmen are fighting mining operations in their ancestral domain.
The rebels urged President Benigno Aquino III to immediately act on the destruction of forests and environment in those areas. Aquino has recently ordered a total ban on all logging activities in natural forests in the southern Philippines after flash floods killed and injured dozens of people in Mindanao.
“In the interest of protecting the country’s remaining virgin forests, the ban must see to it that the licenses of large logging companies operating in and around water sheds and natural forests must immediately be revoked or cancelled. The operations of these said companies must immediately be ordered to cease and pull out from the area. The reactionary government must, on the other hand, provide viable alternative livelihood for all the workers in the field who have been hired by these companies,” said Jorge Madlos, another rebel spokesman.
Madlos said large logging companies in Mindanao continue to operate within near and around water sheds and natural forest. Many virgin forests and mountains in the region are now denuded because of the unabated illegal loggings.
He said rebel forces are committed to stop destructive logging, mining and large scale plantations in Mindanao. “We will continue to launch military punitive actions against these said companies to prevent them from establishing their business, disband, or punish those that do not abide with our revolutionary policies,” Madlos said.
The New People’s Army is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, currently negotiating peace with Manila fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the largely Catholic country. (Mindanao Examiner)