Malacañang yesterday said the attack by the New People’s Army on Philex Mining and the subsequent killing of five soldiers and injuring of two in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental, Saturday is proof of their insincerity in pursuing the peace process.
“They have shown their insincerity when it comes to talking peace and wanting to come to the negotiating table,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
Col. Rey Bañares, deputy commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, confirmed the death of the five soldiers, who had responded to atrocities committed by the New People’s Army Friday night.
About 30 suspected armed rebels Friday night burned two bunk houses of Philex Mining, a Kubota tractor with drilling machine and one generator set, a computer set, ICOM radio and personal belongings in Sitio Umas, Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay City.
This was the third time that rebels had destroyed properties of Philex Mining Corp since 2008 and 2001, allegedly for their refusal to pay revolutionary taxes to the NPA, military records showed.
Soldiers of the 47th Infantry Battalion, who were on pursuit operations, encountered the fleeing rebels at about 7:40 a.m. Saturday, and this led to more than one gunbattle, Capt. Christopher Cunanan, 303rd Infantry Brigade Civil Military Operations officer, said.
The five slain soldiers were identified as Pvt. Benjie Tolog, 26, of Kabankalan City and PFC Jan Granzo,27, of Himamaylan City, in Negros Occidental; PFC Charlie Magne Jomento, 23, of Jaro, Iloilo City; Pvt. Ramer Aguilario, 25, of Passi City, Iloilo; and Cpl. Aljun Francisco,33, of New Aklan, Glan, South Cotabato.
Bañares denied reports that they were killed by a landmine blast, pointing out that all of them sustained gunshot wounds.
Injured were Cpl. Jovimar Latiza, 29, of Mambusao, Capiz; and PFC Romel Agustino, 25, of Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat. They are now in stable condition, Cunanan said.
Four M-16 assault rifles, an M-14 rifle and a K3 Squad Automatic Weapon light machine gun were taken by the NPA rebels, military reports showed.
Cunanan assured the people that military and police troopers will respect human rights and uphold the rule of law in their pursuit operations, and appropriate charges will be filed against the suspects as soon as they are identified.
Meanwhile, Philex Mining has reinforced security measures to ensure the safety of the surrounding community, while employees assigned at the Umas exploration site have been pulled out for safety and security, a press release from the firm said yesterday.
“It is unfortunate that this incident happened and we are unaware of the reasons why the rebels committed such acts of violence,” the Philex statement said.
The Philex Mining exploration activities are permitted and endorsed by the host local governments, Sipalay City and Hinobaan town, as well as by the provincial government of Negros Occidental. It has been operating the Bulawan Project since 1990, through its subsidiary, Philex Gold Phils. Inc., the press release said.
Gold production in Bulawan commenced in 1996, but was put on hold in 2002 following the drop in metal prices, it added.
While still onsite to monitor the mine facilities and ponds stability, Philex Mining continues to explore within the tenement for feasible ore resources. Environmental activities continue, including reforestation, solid waste management and establishment of Robusta coffee plantation with the support of its host and neighboring communities, it also said.*GPB