Danger signs

NPA wooing anti-mining folk, says PNP

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–The New People’s Army in Cagayan Valley has been busy recruiting into the rebel movement tribal folk in upland Kasibu town who are waging opposition to planned large-scale mining activities in the area, police officials here said.

Senior Supt. Segundo Duran, provincial police director, said the NPA movement in the area is expected to take advantage of the disgruntlement of Kasibu residents over the mining controversy confronting the tribal communities there.

“We just hope the people there will not give in, because that would complicate matters,” Duran said, specifically referring to the unresolved standoff between workers of Oxiana Philippines, Inc. (OPI) and villagers who have been barricading the road in Paquet village in Kasibu.

Since July 12, tribal men and women from Pao, Paquet, Kakidugen, Dine, Cataraoan and Biyoy villages have been blocking the mountain road leading to OPI’s exploration site in Pao, preventing the company from transporting construction materials and drilling equipment to the area.

On Friday, an estimated 1,000 tribal folk refused to heed a court order that prohibited them from blocking the entry of a service vehicle hired by OPI.

They earlier expressed disgust over the supposed insistence of the national government in helping foreign mining companies to push the revival of mining, despite the locals’ opposition.

The group said the extension of the period of OPI’s exploration permit was irregular, and that no honest-to-goodness consultation was done with the affected communities.

Duran said intelligence reports indicate a heightened activity of the NPA’s contingent operating in the hinterlands of the Sierra Madre, citing the frequent rebel sightings in areas in Kasibu where villagers .

He cited the Aug. 22 gunbattle between suspected NPA rebels and government troopers from the Army’s 54th Infantry Battalion in Nagtipunan town in Quirino, near the town’s border with Kasibu.

An unidentified rebel was injured in the clash, and Army soldiers recovered a 5.56-mm Ultimax 100 light machine gun from fleeing rebels, Duran said.

Sources in Paquet, however, debunked the police official’s statement, saying the report on the NPA’s supposed intensified activities is only meant to justify the government’s militarization of the area.

“Those (claims) are not true. We have not seen a single NPA (rebel) since we set up the barricade here,” said the source, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal from the police and military.

Asked for comment, Duran said: “The NPA is a threat to national security. Addressing the threat is what is called protection of state interest.”

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