Tampakan issue triggers FB word war between military and militant group

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/05 May) –  Exchanges between the military and a militant group have lately turned nasty due to the Tampakan copper-gold project issue, with both sides resorting to name-calling via the social network, Facebook.

The 27th Infantry Battalion based in Tupi, SouthCotabato branded Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) –SOCCSKSARGEN spokesperson Ryan Lariba as “liar.” In turn, Bayan-SOCCSKSARGEN called the 27th IB “berdugo,” or butcher or executioner.

The harsh labeling, done via Facebook, originated from the April 22 Earth Day incident when groups supporting the Tampakan project allegedly blocked the solidarity mission of militant, religious and indigenous peoples’ groups from proceeding to the mountains.

In a Facebook post dated April 24, the 27th Infantry (Action) Battalion called Lariba a “liar and wished that his soul burn in hell.”

“You are the one violating the human rights of the members of 27th Infantry Battalion. You know you are making false accusation in public,” the post reads.

“You were there. We were not. You are fabricating stories that are designed to malign the reputation and honor of the men in uniform. You are misleading the general public with your hallucination.” it added.

On Thursday, the Facebook account of Bayan-SOCCSKSARGEN tagged the 27th IB as “berdugo” and alleged protector of Sagittarius Mines, Inc.

It said the mine site had become militarized since news broke out in March that several tribal communities had set up barricades against the Tampakan project in protest to the relocation plans of the mining company.

Lt. Col. Alexis Noel Bravo, 27th IB commander, himself labeled Lariba as a “liar” over a local radio station during the futile attempt of the militant groups to go up Bong Mal district last April 22.

Bong Mal is the boundary between Tampakan town and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur that serves as a crucial artery in  the mines development site.

Blaan communities opposing the Tampakan project have set up several checkpoints in Bong Mal.

At the time, Lariba accused Sagittarius Mines and the 27thInfantry Battalion as behind the efforts to stop them from going to Bong Mal to express their solidarity to the tribesmen opposing the mining venture.

Bravo explained then that those who blocked the solidarity mission were groups supportive of the Tampakan project and that he ordered his troops to stay in their detachments and be prepared as reaction forces in case an accident would happen.

Portions of the way to Bong Mal have steep inclines accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles.

Members of the solidary mission were on board jeepneys, elf trucks and multi-cabs.

The Tampakan project is touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.

The estimated contained copper at Tampakan in total resources has risen from 13.9 million metric tons to 15 million MT while estimated contained gold has risen from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9 Moz, according to the latest company study.

In January, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources rejected Sagittarius Mines’ application for an environmental compliance certificate, citing the unresolved open-pit mining ban imposed by South Cotabato province.

The company filed a motion for reconsideration but the Environment department has yet to announce a decision. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)