Monday, December 27, 2010

NPA threatens 7 mining companies in Caraga — AFP

The armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) seems to have made good on its threat to step up attacks on mining companies, a day after it made these threats.

At least seven mining firms operating in the Caraga region in Mindanao have complained of extortion by the New People’s Army, Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, chief of the Philippine Army’s 4th Civil Military Operations Battalion said on Monday, a day after the CPP made its threat.

“Seven mining companies are the targets. They have expressed their apprehension to Maj Gen. Felix that they cannot meet the so-called quota demanded by the NPA," Osias said.

He was referring to Maj. Gen. Victor Felix, chief of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, which operates in Caraga and the neighboring Northern Mindanao region.

Regional rebel spokesman Jorge Madlos told journalists that the NPA would be stepping up attacks on mining companies because these destroy the environment and exploit workers, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.

Madlos spoke during ceremonies to mark the 42nd anniversary of one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies, held in a farming village at the foothills of the Diwata mountain range in Surigao del Sur province, in the Caraga region.

“But we found out that that was just a cover because they were increasing the annual revolutionary tax to P20, P25 million," Osias told defense reporters the day after the CPP’s anniversary.

Osias said that for next year, the NPA was set to raise the amount of “revolutionary taxes" that it imposed on mining companies from about P15 million to as high as P25 million a month.

“There are seven big companies complaining but we cannot name them upon their request," he said.

While the Army officer did not identify the seven companies, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau lists Taganito Mining Corp., S.R Metals Inc., Philex Mining Corporation and Philsaga Mining Corp. as among the biggest mining companies in the region.

Ripe for ‘agitation’

“[The companies] cannot come up with that amount. So the threat is [that] they (mining companies) will leave the area," Osias said.

Should mining firms be forced to stop operating in the region, this will leave many Caraga residents jobless, he added.

“People will be in a sorry state, they will be jobless and driven to poverty. Of course that (is) what they (rebels) want because (this is) going to (make the situation) ripe for ‘agitation’," he said.

Investors may be driven out of the region if the rebels continued with their extortion activities, he added.

“The impact is more economic. If there are no investors, there will be no growth in the area. Poverty will set in and it will be ripe for agitation by the NPA. That is what they want – to stop growth in the area," Osias said.

On top of the “revolutionary taxes," rebels also demand their supplies — including computers, communication radios, and even firearms — from the mining firms, Osias claimed.

Osias also claimed that the NPA had raised the amount of revolutionary taxes it imposed on small businesses, from P15,000 to P20,000 a month, forcing many of these small businesses to think of shutting down.

“They said they may just close. They said they will be doing business only for them (NPAs)," said Osias.

The officer said that the Philippine Army will meet with security officers of the mining firms and the Philippine National Police in the region to thresh out what to do.

“We’ll do what we can to help beef up their forces. We’ll come up with a solution by the first quarter of next year," he said.

In a separate statement, Osias also said that the low turnout in anniversary celebrations revealed declining support for the communist insurgency.

“Of the expected 10,000, only less than 3,000 attendees were able to make it. The low turn-out goes to show that they are now weaker and less influential than what they used to be several years ago," Osias said.

In the same breath, he invited the rebels to return to mainstream society.

“We are sincerely inviting the CPP/NPA/NDF here in CARAGA Region to join the 4th ID in our peace and development projects. These projects will surely benefit all our stakeholders," he said. — with Ben Serrano/DM/KBK, GMANews.TV

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