By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — The Regional Police Office Cordillera (PROCor) and the New People’s Army (NPA) command operating in the region are up against each other in a different battlefield.
Over the past weeks, the propaganda war between the two camps has intensified following their exchange of claims and denials on surrendering rebels.
The most recent disinformation, according to PROCor, is the assertion made by the NPA and Cordillera People’s Liberation Front (CPDF) regarding the possible entry of the Cordillera Exploration Company, Inc. (CEXCI) in Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur.
“Validation on the veracity of this claim shows that said company had applied for exploration, but no approval has been given due to existing government moratoriums,” said PROCor PBGen. Israel Ephriam Dickson in a statement.
Members of the revolutionary movement view the larges-scale and continuous military operations in the area as part of the government’s effort to ensure the entry of corporate projects. CEXCI, a subsidiary of mining giant Nickel Asia, is among those repeatedly cited by NPA and CPDF as a threat to the people and the environment.
According to its website, CEXCI holds a permit to conduct exploration in its Manmanok Property in Apayao. It has also applied for an Exploration Permit (EP) over the Kutop Property located in Abra. The company is also working to covert part of its Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) application in provinces of Benguet, Ilocos Sur and Mountain Province to EP.
The Mining Industry Coordinating Council maintained the moratorium on new mining operations, which the Duterte government inherited from the previous admiration under Executive Order 79, signed in 2012. However, Environment of Natural Resource Secretary Roy Cimatu lifted the moratorium on the acceptance, processing, and approval of EP applications in July 2018 after completing the mining audit initiated by his predecessor.
According to Mining Global, exploration is the beginning of any mining operation. Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the stage includes the searching of mineral and determining the “extent and quality thereof and the feasibility of mining them for profit.”
Earlier, the PROCor chief also traded “fake news” claims with Martin Montana, the NPA spokesperson of the Chadli Molintas Command of the NPA in the Ilocos and Cordillera called the series of police and military pronouncements regarding rebels and sympathizers yielding “farcical.”
“Not even one percent of the said surrenderees are real members of the NPA, and yet, many of them were former surrenderees who were only recycled by the AFP-PNP to be presented as new surrenderees,” Montana said.
In a statement dated November 5, PROCor chief pointed out that the recent surrender of the two alleged NPA’s debunked the allegation made by the guerillas about “recycled rebel returnees.”
The police identified the surrenderees as Fermin Quidlayen of Poblacion, Sagada, Mountain Province, and Benny Wadwadan from Belwang, Sadanga, Mt Province. They brought with them arms and ammunition according to the report.
Dickson said the NPA’s claim of recycled surrenderees is absurd and means hide that the guerillas are men and weapons.
Montana retorted on the same day that the PROCor chief’s “offensive mood” is meant to “garners merits to outdo the others” for promotion.
“Thus, the series of obviously stage-managed surrender ceremonies of so-called NPA commanders, fighters and supporters took center stage in the mainstream local media with the General hugging the limelight,” the NPA leader said.
He challenged Dickson to explain how a 77-year old senior citizen can effectively function as a Milisyang Bayan. The individual was among the 10 “surrenderees” from Sallapadan town presented on October 24 in Bangued, Abra.
“And what about the four old women from barangay Buaya, Balbalan, Kalinga in their 50’s and 60’s who were presented by the PNP Kalinga as NPAs also on the same day in Tabuk, Kalinga?” he added.
People support offensives
Montana noted that despite the government’s claim of thousands of NPA fighters and supporters surrendering, the communist guerillas continue to launch successful attacks against government troops. According to him, red fighters can conduct offensives and evade large operations by the military and police because of the continuing support of the people.
Separate clashes in Besao and Sagada, Mountain Province in the last months, resulted in four casualties on the government side.
On October 24, a firefight between government forces and communist guerillas in Besao led to the death of Corporal Felimon Naganag of the Special Forces Regiment from Tabuk City, Kalinga, and wounding of Patrolman Hebron B. Awisa of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion.
Fighters of the NPA also ambushed police and army patrolling a forested in Sagada on September 26, resulting in a 30-minute firefight that left Cpl. Jordan Malnawa of Pinukpuk, Kalinga dead, and the wounding of Pvt. Melvin Modes.
A significant number of local government units in the Cordillera have declared the communist guerillas as persona non grata. The CPDF and NPA in the region downplayed this, saying that the actions of local officials are the result of the pressures from Malacañang and does not reflect the people’s sentiment. # nordis.net