The Philippine National Police has offered agricultural plantations, mining industries and other big businesses in Mindanao a win-win solution to stop the harassment of the National People’s Army (NPA), who has stepped up attacks against various industries in Mindanao.
In a meeting between the PNP’s Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) in Western and Eastern Mindanao and the private security forces of the industries, the PNP introduced a scheme known as Adopt Your Police Station Program which will deploy adequate police forces in areas threatened by the rebels.
Police Senior Superintendent Daniel G. Macatlang, Jr., of DIPO-Western Mindanao explained the scheme as a cooperation between the PNP and businesses in solving the atrocities committed against the plantations and other businesses in Mindanao.
According to the scheme, business groups can donate a piece of land in areas regularly harassed or threatened by rebel forces so that the PNP can build a police camp to help secure their businesses. The PNP he said has a budget for this scheme.
Under the Adopt your Police Station Program, policemen trained for combat operations will be deployed from their Risk Public Safety Battalion (RSBP).
Macatlang said the number of police personnel to be deployed depends on the gravity of the threat. A police force ranging form a platoon to as big as a battalion can be deployed to stop the rebels’ harassment.
Macatlang pointed out that private security guards are not combat trained, they are just for protection and ordinary police work, they can’t fight the rebels.
However, if they are military trained and given high-powered weapons they can fight the rebels.
A security manager from a multinational said, “some industries will not agree to engage the military because of the military’s reputation of being human rights violators. Also, if we are going to have the military it will invite terrorists, then the plantations will become the battlegrounds.”
Macatlang explained that the property to be donated should be outside of the businesses’ grounds, it should be just near the vicinity of the company’s area of operations. Thus, it will also be able to protect the communities around the area.
He also emphasized that the policemen fighting insurgencies are not only engaged in combat operations. They are actually doing Law Enforcement Operations, which means that the police forces work closely with the army and would normally stay behind after the fight with the rebels.
The police component includes the SOCO (Scene of the Crime Operatives) to document what happened during the fight to prevent the rebels’ black propaganda. The SOCO will identify the casualties, the origins of their arms, thus it will prevent the rebels from claiming that the casualties are innocent farmers or just plain ordinary citizens.
“The key in this scheme is the cooperation of the industries with the PNP and AFP. Usually, we are called when the atrocities are already happening or have happened already. If you will provide us advance information, even before the rebels attack, we can help prevent it.
He said the rebels would normally send warnings or demand for revolutionary taxes but industries will either just keep quiet or give in to their demands. If the police or military are informed ahead of time, then their harassment will be anticipated and could even be prevented.
The cooperation will even be strengthened if the PNP is provided a place where they build their camp, which will be permanent, then the policemen assigned to the police stations can also engage in intelligence and surveillance work.
Macatlang said the Adopt your Police Station Program will require at the minimum, a 500-sqm of land and the PNP will be responsible for building the camp’s facilities. The policemen to be assigned are combat trained and they can fight the rebels.
The company, which would like to join the program, should request and file directly to the Chief PNP. Then they will be required to file incidence of atrocities committed by the rebels to determine the size of the police force to be deployed. Then the presence of the police force will be maintained in the area, they can also train the private security forces of the company and work together in maintaining peace and order in the community.
Security managers find the scheme a better alternative and more cost effective for the industries. “This is a very good alternative, since we don’t have to hire additional personnel or buy more in firearms to organize an organic security force. Adopting a police station looks more viable and sustainable,” a security manager, who requested not to be named for security reasons, said.
Another security manager, said the scheme is a win-win solution since the companies will have more time focusing on production rather than getting worried about their security, and it will be cheaper for them.
The manager said they are augmenting their private security forces by employing Special CAFGU (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit) Active Auxiliary (SCAA) because they also encounter MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) in their production areas.
It’s not easy to maintain SCAA because they are deployed on a permanent basis in the perimeter of their production areas and they are very expensive. He said their company spends more than PhP13 million a year for a force of 100 SCAA personnel, and since the MILF forces are big in their areas, they have to employ a big number of SCAA forces on top of their private security forces.
The insurgency problem affects almost all industries in Mindanao. It has been a major problem in the last five decades caused by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
Their atrocities involve arson, extortion, harassment, black propaganda, infiltration of labor unions, meddling with agribusiness venture agreements, etc. There are 52 communist fronts nationwide, 24 are in Eastern Mindanao or 46% while the remaining 28 fronts (54%) are scattered in the rest of the country.
Most of the big industries in the countryside are located near rebel bases. They are vulnerable to CNN-initiated violent and non-violent attacks. Rebels also harass smaller businesses in the areas where they operate.
A couple of years back, the base camp of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. in Tampakan, South Cotabato, then the biggest mining investment, was burned down by rebel forces while it’s workers were celebrating New Year’s day.
Last year, the NPAs attacked Mindanao plantations almost on a monthly basis beginning in January until November. The NPAs burned heavy equipment, container vans and cargo trucks loaded with bananas in various parts of Mindanao, such as T’boli and Surallah in South Cotabato; Barobo and Lianga in Surigao del Sur; Quezon, Bukidnon; Maco, Compostela Valley; and Maasim, Sarangani Province.
The attacks stopped, probably because of the annual ceasefire agreement during December, but the NPAs have stepped up their violent activities against the plantations starting late January up to last week. The attacks covering the period January 22 to March 15, 2016, have already surpassed the number of attacks for the whole of 2015.
The NPAs burned four Martignani spray trucks, a warehouse inside a packinghouse compound and other heavy equipment from eight different plantations in Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte, Sarangani and South Cotabato. They have also bombed transmission towers in various parts of Mindanao.
The turbulent situation in Mindanao could stop further expansion of the plantations, at the very least, but it could worsen when industries start packing up and leaving for other countries eyeing to grab the lucrative fruits export market in Asia and the Middle East from Mindanao exporters.