Philippine communist guerrillas warned three mining companies Wednesday that they may be attacked again if they continue to use methods the rebels say harm the environment.
New People’s Army regional spokesman Jorge Madlos said the nickel mining companies in remote Claver town in southern Surigao del Norte province have refused to discuss the guerrillas’ concerns about the environment and the treatment of mine workers. Mining officials have denied the rebel allegations.
Military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said attacks by more than 200 guerrillas on the sprawling mining compounds last October were part of extortion attempts. Government forces have bolstered security at the mines, he said.
The Maoist guerrillas disarmed guards, briefly held company staff, and burned company offices and heavy equipment during the Oct. 3 attacks, one of the largest rebel assaults in recent years. One of the companies was forced to temporarily shut down its operations.
Madlos acknowledged the rebels wanted what he called “revolutionary taxes” from the mining companies but said the attacks were primarily sparked by their concern over mining methods that have allegedly caused sea and land pollution in Claver, about 430 miles (700 kilometers) southeast of Manila.
The New People’s Army, which is listed by Washington as a terrorist group, has staged smaller attacks on mining companies and banana plantations in the south in the past, accusing them of exploiting the country’s resources and workers. The rebels are estimated to number slightly more than 4,000.
Peace talks with the guerrillas stalled last year after the government refused a rebel demand for the release of several of their captured comrades.
The Communist Party of the Philippines urged its armed wing, which celebrates its 43rd anniversary on Thursday, to intensify attacks on government forces, including small assaults that employ homemade bombs, land mines and booby-traps, “to demoralize and disintegrate the enemy.”
The Marxist insurgency, one of Asia’s longest-running, has been weakened considerably by battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism but remains the country’s leading security threat, the military says.