Taganito mining firm seeks AFP support

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 October) — Besieged mining firm Taganito Mining Company (TMC) has reportedly requested the deployment of a special paramilitary unit to beef up its security force following attacks by communist rebels on its mine site and other sister companies in Surigao del Norte early this month.

Maj. Eugene Osias, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, said a formal request has been submitted by the company and is now being processed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

It will be the defense department, however, which will give the final approval although sources said the request has already been approved in principle.

The Philippine government has urged mining firms and big companies operating in rebel-infested areas to employ para-military forces to secure their businesses following the Surigao attacks.

Intelligence sources, however, said the mining company initially rejected recommendations from the military to put up special Cafgu units in their mining sites for fear of further New People’s Army (NPA) attacks.

Cafgu stands for Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, a government created para-military force.

The company also reportedly refused to allow the military to use its mining sites as staging areas for AFP operations against the NPA rebels.

On October 3, some 200 fully armed NPA guerrillas simultaneously raided TMC and its sister companies – the Taganito High-Pressure Acid Leaching (THPAL-Sumitomo) and the Platinum Gold Metal Corporation (PGMC).

Some P500 million (US$11 million) worth of machinery, equipment and facilities were burned by the NPA rebels.

They also took hostages several company officials but later released them unharmed.

No one was hurt during the seven-hour rebel siege.

The NPA raids came 12 days after the AFP pulled out the 30th Infantry Battalion from the area for retraining.

Former Army captain Ronnel Malcom, a middle ranking security officer of Sumitomo, said he was not aware of the request for special Cafgu units by its parent company, Taganito Mining.

The Sumitomo-controlled mining firms were raided by the NPA for reportedly ignoring rebel warnings against environmental degradation caused by their operations.

The mining firms also reportedly refused to give the exact amount of ‘revolutionary taxes’ the NPA rebels had been demanding.

In a letter sent to the press, Maria Malaya spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Northern Mindanao said company officials have also ignored rebel demand for a meeting.

Malay, believed to be the wife of NDF Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos likewise admitted they sent letters to the company in March this year, demanding revolutionary taxes from the mining companies.

A military source who requested anonymity said TMC and its sister companies need at least two companies of special security force to prevent another NPA attack. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews contributor, writes for the asiancorresondent.com)