GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Communist rebels raided the field facilities of Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI) in the town of Kiblawan, Davao del Sur early Monday morning, burning some 48 container vans which served as makeshift offices for the besieged mining company.

Almost simultaneously, another group of New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas disarmed the security guards of an exploration company reportedly owned by Consunji’s DMCI Holdings in Barangay Salnaong in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, carting away 14 shotguns and assorted ammunition, according to rebel spokesman Ka Efren.

Ka Efren said the attacks were spearheaded by the rebels’ Front 72 Mt Alip Command, said to be headed Ka Jing.

Some 80 NPA rebels reportedly joined the simultaneous attacks.  

An AK-47 wielding NPA rebel. Pic: Edwin Espejo.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

“These attacks are part of our punitive actions against mining operations throughout the country,” Ka Efren said in a telephone interview.

Col. Norman Flores, commanding officer of the Philippine Army’s 1002nd Brigade, said the rebels were led by one Joan Casamurin alias Ka Alvin of the Front 72 sentro de grabidad (SDG).

He also confirmed the raid on SODACO, a subsidiary of DMCI, where the rebels likewise confiscated the sidearms of the security guards.

Col. Flores said the ‘forward office’ of SMI in Kimlawis had already been abandoned.

The Army officer nevertheless ordered his troops to go after the rebels.

“This could be retaliation for the capture of Felix Armodia, alias Ka Jing, and to force the mining companies to give in to their extortion try,” the Army officer said.

On Saturday, May 3, the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced the capture of Armodia, identified as the secretary of the NPA’s Front 72.

But human rights group Karapatan said it was Romeo Rivera, not Armodia, who was “illegally arrested” by military intelligence operatives.

In a March 4 interview, Ka Efren also denied Ka Jing was captured by the military.

Ka Efren, spokesman for the Far South Mindanao Regional Party Committee of the CPP, said Armodia was “safe with our comrades in the guerrilla front.”

Armodia led a daring NPA attack at the police headquarters in Matanao, Davao del Sur in March in which three policemen were killed.

Nine soldiers were also slain when a rebel blocking force detonated a land mine hitting an Army truck sent to reinforce the beleaguered policemen.

The SMI facilities in Kiblawan have largely been abandoned with a few employees left to guard the offices.

Last year SMI was forced to lay off more than 930, or 85 percent, of its workforce, including consultants and contractors, following the decision of Glencore-Xstrata to ‘downscale’ its operations in the Philippines.

Glencore-Xstrata, which owns 62.5 percent of SMI, cited market uncertainties and the inability of the mining company to obtain the necessary government permits to proceed with its planned commercial production.

SMI had announced a 2019 production target but the refusal of the provincial government of South Cotabato to lift the ban on open pit mining hindered the company from getting the necessary business permit.

Glencore-Xstrata has been reportedly looking for a buyer for its stake in SMI.

The remaining 32.5 percent share of SMI is owned by Australia-based Indophil Resources NL.