British firm tightens SMI security

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 July) –A British security consulting firm was recently reported to be scouting for an international security expert specializing in securing mining sites with added qualification of “expertise in possible armed response” following successive violent incidents at the Tampakan copper and gold project of Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI) in South Cotabato and surrounding areas where the latter is operating.

Global Securities Solutions, Inc. (G4S) posted early this year a job opening for a top security expert “to provide service to a client in the mining industry in the area of overseeing and developing industrial security in General Santos City Mindanao, Philippines.”

G4S is referring to client SMI whose listed local security contractor is Catena Security Inc, the Philippine partner of the UK-based international security provider.

Among the job description listed by G4S is “to deliver field security services…(including) but are not restricted to Guarding, Armed Response, VIP Escort and security technology services.”

It also required the job applicant to “deliver standardized outcomes for routine operations and planned events and skills to escalate and control unplanned events.”

The application for the job closed in May 19 this year.

SMI has been the subject of armed attacks from the communist-led New People’s Army and a group of indigenous tribe belonging to a Blaan community who are opposed to its planned commercial operations in 2016.

On June 20 this year, a retired police colonel hired by SMI as its security consultant was killed along with a policeman guard in an ambush allegedly staged by a Blaan armed band led by tribal leader Daguil Capion in Kimlawis village in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.

Capion has been opposing the encroachment of SMI into their ancestral lands.

Last year, SMI offsite land acquisition officer Cris Bual was gunned down while jogging near his home in Central Park village in Davao City.

On New Year’s Day in 2008, some 80 fully armed NPA guerillas raided the main base camp of SMI in Tampakan and abducted a village official whom they later executed.

G4S took over as security consultant of SMI from an Australian security company following the attack.
The following year, the same NPA rebel band also attacked the Tampakan police station whose unit the rebels claimed is providing security to SMI.

Last year, three drill contractors of SMI were also killed in an ambush also believed instigated by Capion’s group.

In all these incidents, SMI was forced to temporarily suspend operations only to resume them later when violence subsided.

In March 2009, anti-mining activist Eliezer ‘Boy’ Billanes was gunned down minutes after attending a dialogue with local government officials and military personnel after complaining of harassment from suspected government forces.

His death remains unsolved.

SMI is facing stiff opposition from the local Catholic Church as well as various environment groups for its planned mining operations.

Bishop Dinulado Gutierrez of the Diocese of Marbel has been repeatedly warning of an escalation of violence in the mining site if SMI is allowed to operate.

SMI was recently denied an environmental compliance certificate by the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on account of an existing provincial environment code, which banned open pit mining in South Cotabato.

But SMI said it will continue to explore all avenues to pursue its mining operations. (Edwin G. Espejo/Contributor)