Mapping firm personnel seized by NPA in ComVal
MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/02 June) – Four employees of a private mapping firm hired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and their driver were seized on Friday by the New People’s Army in Maco, Compostela Valley, a statement released Monday by the rebel group said.
Daniel Ibarra, spokesperson of the Comval Davao Gulf Sub Regional Command-NPA, identified the captives as Ken Wong (manager and team leader), Chrisandro Favela, Tim Sabino, and Nico Lasaca, all employees of Sky Eye UAV Services.
“Their driver, Jonas Loredo of the Maria Ave car rental service, was also arrested last May 30 in Barangay New Leyte, Maco, Compostela Valley,” Ibarra, who accused them of doing reconnaissance of guerrilla bases, said.
The statement said the Sky Eye employees were bringing in surveillance gadgets, “abetting the enemy’s counter-revolutionary campaign against the revolutionary forces and environmental plunder.”
“Confiscated from them were 1 sky surfer drone and two multi-rotor drones, two laptops and one gps (Global Positioning System),” it said, adding the five captives arrived in the area last May 28.
Ibarra said their initial investigation following the “arrest” showed that “Sky Eye UAV was hired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for its so-called greening program.”
“The four personnel were conducting mapping thru aerial surveillance using drones that have high definition cameras and videos. The company’s owners are Matt Cua and Carlos Ezekiel. They started last year and have already visited Bislig, Kapalong, Monkayo,Montevista, Polomolok,Tacloban, Panay, and Appari areas,” he added.
He said the incident confirmed earlier pronouncement by local environment officials that they will tap the “Sky High” project using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones to pinpoint so-called illegal logging “hot spots” in Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, and Davao del Norte provinces.
Ibarra said the NPA views the anti-logging aerial reconnaissance as “a pretext to intensify imperialist mining plunder and counter-revolutionary intelligence in Southern Mindanao.”
He cited that “Maco is not a hotspot for logging as its forests are largely denuded and its mountains mainly mineral-rich.”
“It would appear that Sky Eye is mainly protecting, if not linked towards the big mining operations in Maco and mountain boundaries of Pantukan and Mabini, areas under the control of foreign large scale mining concessionaires Apex Mining and St. Augustine Mining Corp. The DENR’s UAV use is far from protecting the environment, but is mainly to defend the interest of the big mining companies that are guilty of destroying and plundering our environment,” he said.
“The NPA will release the captive drone personnel on condition that the Sky Eye will stop its surveillance and intelligence activities in the areas of People’s Democratic Government,” he concluded. (MindaNews)