Rebels attack mine site, kill 5 soldiers

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Monday, May 6, 2013

FIVE soldiers were killed and two others were wounded when armed men believed to be members of the New People's Army (NPA) attacked the exploration site of Philex Mining’s Bulawan Project in Sitio Umas, Barangay Camindangan, Sipalay City, around 9 p.m. Friday, May 3.

An undetermined number of rebels were also believed killed and wounded during the encounter, according to the military.

Based on military report, those who were killed in action were identified as Corporal Aljun G. Francisco, 33, of New Aklan, Glan, South Cotabato; Private First Class (PFC) Charlie Magne Jomento, 23, of Jaro, Iloilo; PFC Jan Granzo, 27, of Himamaylan City; Private Ramer Aguilario, 25 of Passi, Iloilo, and Private Benjie Tolog, 26, of Kabankalan City.


Their remains lie at St. Peter's Chapel in Kabankalan City.

The wounded were identified as PFC Jovimar G. Latiza, 29, of Mambusao, Capiz, and PFC Romel Agustino, 25, of Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat. They were immediately brought to the hospital and are now in stable condition.

A total of six firearms were carted away by the rebels from the government troopers.

Military and police forces continue to conduct pursuit operations, and vowed to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law in the conduct of the operations.

The rebels also burned two employees’ bunkhouses, a Kubota tractor with drilling machine and a generator set. A computer, Icom handheld radio and personal belongings of employees were also burned.

The encounter with the rebels lasted for more than an hour after which the NPAs withdrew toward an undetermined direction.

Military officials said in a statement that the perpetrators shall be identified and will be charged with appropriate criminal cases in court.

Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. condemned Sunday the attack.

"That's very unfortunate. That's why I have been calling on the rebels to sit down with us in a negotiating table so that we would know their problem and study what the government can do about it. We really wanted to end this longest insurgency problem," Marañon said, adding he will extend assistance to the families of the slain soldiers.

Philex Mining, in a statement furnished to Sun.Star Bacolod, said the area of attack is 30 kilometers away from the company's Bulawan gold project, which is now under care and maintenance through its subsidiary Philex Gold Philippines Inc. (PGPI).

The 3rd Infantry Division, 303rd Infantry Brigade and 47th Infantry Battalion responded swiftly to intercept the NPA, but an exchange of gunfire followed. No casualties were reported among the company's employees.

Philex Mining has reinforced security measures to ensure the safety of the surrounding community while employees assigned at the Umas exploration site had been pulled out for safety and security.

“It is unfortunate that this is incident happened and we are unaware of the reasons why the rebels committed such acts of violence,” the company stated.

Philex Mining's exploration activities here are permitted and endorsed by its host local governments, Sipalay City and Hinobaan municipality, as well as that of the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental.

It has been operating the Bulawan Project since 1990, through its subsidiary, Philex Gold Phils. Inc. (PGPI). Gold production in Bulawan commenced in 1996, but was put on hold in 2002 following the drop in metal prices.

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, the company statement added.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 06, 2013.

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