Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members briefly held employees of a mining company and burned an equipment owned by the firm, in Sofronio Española, Palawan, on Sunday, the military said.

Lt. Anne Abrigo, acting spokesperson of the Armed Forces’ Western Command, said the incident occurred around 1 p.m. in Sitio Malanap, Brgy. Tunang, near Citi Nickel Mining Corporation’s quarry site.

Eight employees of the company were riding their service truck when they were halted and held at gunpoint by about six fully-armed men, Abrigo said.

One of the armed men then torched a Volvo backhoe owned by Citi Nickel that was parked about 250 meters from their position, she said.

“Hindi naman sila (employees) sinaktan, sinunog lang [‘yung backhoe] tapos umalis na, pero siyempre ‘yung employees nandun lang, naka-freeze sila,” Abrigo said.

The employees later reported the incident to the military, who sent a “quick reaction force” after the attackers.

“Ang sinabi eh sa tingin nila (employees), ‘yung possible na motibo ng panununog ay ‘yung parang retribution, kasi merong extortion attempt eh… ‘yung NPA nag-extort daw sa kanila kaso di nila pinagbigyan, baka retribution ‘yun dahil nga hindi sila nagbigay ng revolutionary tax,” Abrigo said.

The regional military spokesperson, however, said they are also looking at the possibility that some militant “anti-mining citizens” were behind the attack.

“Ngayon ang ginawa na ng Wescom, thru Naval Forces West at saka ‘yung 3rd Marine Brigade, tinawagan natin ‘yung mga mining companies din doon sa Rio Tuba at Quezon na i-heighten yung security nila, para ma-prevent itong incident from happening in their areas,” Abrigo said. (John Roson)

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