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Aerial military bombing leaves indigenous land clear for mining

HONG KONG (Mabuhay) : A series of aerial bombardments conducted by the military in the province of Sarangani on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao during the first half of this year would seem to have more to do with clearing the land for mining companies to move in than the supposed agenda of flushing out members of the New People’s Army.

On March 27 this year, at least 360 families, or 2,000 people, were forced to flee their homes as the military strafed the area from the air in an attempt that it claimed was aimed at flushing rebels out of hiding.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission reported on June 16 that soldiers have also been threatening people and are forcing confessions from villagers in locations where a rebel presence is suspected.

The majority of the displaced are indigenous people and the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights says that soldiers have forced civilians to confess and disclose the location of camps belonging to the New People’s Army.

The Alliance says that if they refuse to cooperate, they are accused of either being rebels themselves, or rebel informants.

The aerial bombardment in the Blaan communities has destroyed crops, including bananas, cassava, vegetables and coffee, which are the sole source of their livelihood.

Again on May 18 this year, more aerial bombing near the remote village of Upper Suyan and Pagasa in Sarangani caused around 400 people taking shelter in the Sofan Elementary School to scuttle in fear of their lives.

Some of the evacuees were given shelter by the United Church of The Philippines in General Santos City, where they were looked after by personnel from non-government organisations who also provided trauma counselling, especially for the terrified children.

Meling Bagit, the mother of a 10-day old baby, suffered from bleeding and another gave birth on May 21 in the evacuation centre. Most of the pregnant and lactating mothers showed signs of trauma.

On June 10, the Commission on Human Rights promoted a dialogue between the indigenous people and the 73rd Infantry Battalion. The people asked if they could be given an assurance that they would be secure in their communities if they returned home.

However, they did not receive any categorical answer and have been left in no man’s land.

Local groups believe that the aerial bombardment of the area has nothing to do with flushing out rebels, but is part of plan by Local Government Units to clear people off their land so that three mining companies, the Trans Multi Corporation, LOOC Mining Corporation and the Legenda Mining Corporation, can take over the area.

 

The 16,096 hectare area is rich in mineral wealth.