MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Protecting the mines

Published by MAC on 2009-02-10

The Philippine government has provided more detail about its deployment of a special "citizens" force to protect mines - as well as communities - against attacks by leftwing rebels.

Philippines allows part-time soldiers to guard mines


26th January 2009

MANILA - The Philippines will allow mines and plantations to hire private security guards to prevent attacks by Maoist-led rebels, but ensure they are closely supervised by troops, Manila 's defence secretary said on Monday.

The communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels stepped up attacks on businesses in resource-rich areas in the volatile south of the country last year to generate funds to sustain their rebellion and the army is finding it difficult to contain them, said Gilberto Teodoro.

"We have a limited amount of troops to devote in those areas where mining activities are conducted," Teodoro told reporters, adding that mines and plantations were being allowed to use part-time soldiers, or the Citizens' Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), for security.

The military has recruited and trained about 60,000 regular CAFGUs to defend communities against rebel attacks and a few hundred special CAFGUs to guard businesses.

From only four attacks in 2007, the Pacific Strategies and Assessments, a security consultancy group, recorded 18 mine sites hit by NPA rebels in 2008.

Last year, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the military to organise a dedicated unit to protect investments in mining, logging, plantations and telecommunications against NPA rebel attacks on the southern island of Mindanao .

Teodoro said NPA extortion and protection rackets at the mining areas have been generating enough revenue to sustain the recruitment and operations across the country, with the guerrillas active in 69 of 80 provinces nationwide.

Apart from mine sites, the NPA guerrillas have also been attacking plantations, logging concessions, mobile phone facilities and construction companies to collect "revolutionary taxation", defence and military officials said.

Based on army intelligence estimates, the 5,000-member NPA raised nearly 1 billion pesos in 2008 from extortion and illegal business operations such as small-scale mining and cultivating marijuana.

The presence of NPA rebels, waging a protracted guerrilla warfare for the last 40 years, has also scared away potential investors in many regions, the military said. The conflict has killed more than 40,000 people.

(Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Alex Richardson)

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