ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/9 March) – Violence erupted at the mining site of a Canadian-backed firm in Zamboanga del Norte province that resulted in the death of a small-scale mining leader on Sunday, belated military and police reports said.
Lt. Randolph G. Cabangbang, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), identified the fatality as Rodrigo Segovia, who was shot by a paramilitary trooper acting as security personnel of TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc. (TVIRD), which operates a large-scale copper and zinc project in the town of Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte.
The victim, together with three others, blocked the road that is leading to the mining site, reports said.
“The victim and his companions who were armed with bolos blocked the road … to prevent dump trucks from going in and out of the mining site,” Cabangbang said.
The shooting started when paramilitary troops pacified the protesters, he added.
Cabangbang said Segovia drew his bolo, prompting the suspect to shoot the victim with a handgun.
The DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues, a non-governmental organization based in Dipolog City, said that the victim was one of the small scale miners who picketed, complaining about the dusty road and requested TVI that the road be sprinkled with water.
“Nothing was done about his request though, so they put up road blocks to prevent TVI trucks from passing,” the group said, adding that the group of Segovia was shot “when a heated verbal exchange ensued” between the victim and the guards.
TVIRD, on the other hand, said the guards on duty acted on “self-defense.”
It said that the victim kept on “charging” the guards during the argument.
Paramilitary member Arnie G. Omongia, the mining firm said, “drew his gun and aimed at his attacker’s leg but missed. He again fired and hit the assailant.”
TVI said that Segovia is part of a group of “holdover” small-scale miners (SSMs) who operated in Canatuan prior to the 2004 start of TVIRD’s operations.
“Despite lengthy negotiations, including generous offers of compensation, safety concerns, and repeated requests for Segovia to vacate an area near the mine pit that he was unlawfully occupying, he had been defying the Subanons, even threatening the latter with bodily harm,” TVI said.
TVI added that the Subanons and their company have been negotiating with Segovia and three families who all claim to be part of the old SSM community in Canatuan.
“Even before TVIRD started actual mining operations in mid-2004, the company had begun negotiations with about 380 SSM families to relocate away from the mine area primarily for safety reasons.,” the mining firm said. “They have been offered a ‘disturbance compensation’ that is many times higher than those prescribed by the provincial ordinance governing real properties,” it added.
Violence between anti-mining protesters and TVI is not new. At least 15 people were killed and 20 others were wounded when protesters and TVI security personnel clashed on March 13 and December 26 in the year 2002.
TVI defended that the presence of Special CAFGU Active Auxillary (SCAA) in the Canatuan mining site is precautionary measure employed to maintain peace and order in the community.
“Having invested more than $25 million into the Canatuan Project, TVI is compelled to protect itself, its employees, and its community from criminal and terrorist elements who threaten to harm not only the company’s physical assets but, more importantly, its on-site personnel,” the company said earlier. (Contributed by Darwin Wally T. Wee / Peace Advocates Zamboanga)