In its statement sent to news organizations, SMI said it awarded the security contract to Catena Security, Inc. and said that the firm was part of the Group Four Securicor, or G4S, “one of the world's leading security firms”.
The statement said that Cartena Security “will take up the contract from the beginning of March [this year]”. “SMI began the extensive tender process for the new contract last year as part of a regular review,” the statement said.
The statement quoted SMI Resident Manager, Gerardo Laviste, as saying that “the company was delighted to award the key contract to a security firm with such a world-class reputation”.
"The safety and security of our staff, contractors and visitors is our number one priority. Bringing on board such a high calibre firm as Catena reflects our commitment to promoting peace and security in the region,” Laviste said.
He said that the SMI assured that " our security guards will also benefit from the change enjoying enhanced benefits with Catena". The company statement said that “all guards currently providing security services to SMI will be offered new positions with Catena with enhanced benefits and conditions”.
SMI said that “more than 100 guards, most from the local community, will benefit from this employment opportunity”. “In addition, up to eight new security guard posts will be created at SMI's tenement in Kiblawan as part of the change-over”.
It was unclear, however, if the move was prompted by the New Year’s Day guerrilla raid of its base camp in Barangay Tablu in Tampakan, South Cotabato and burned its administration and dormitory buildings.
The military said that about 40 communist-led New People's Army guerrillas also disarmed security personnel manning the camp and harassed a Philippine Army detachment some 500 meters away from the mining firm compound apparently to prevent reinforcements from soldiers and militiamen. The NPAs took away two service revolvers and a shotgun from three security personnel on duty during the raid.
No one was hurt in the attack but a former militiaman was reportedly abducted by the rebels in the nearby village of Datal Biao in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat when the armed group retreated.
A highly-placed source contacted earlier by a MindaNews contributor claimed that the company had been hiring a former member of a British elite security force as its security consultant up to the time of the guerrilla raid. The alleged security consultant was working for an Australia-based security firm, when he was hired.
The SMI has neither confirmed nor denied the claim of the Mindanews source and a message sent by Mindanews to SMI inquiring into it was not answered as of Friday. (MindaNews)