Five soldiers were killed while two were injured in a clash with New People’s Army (NPA) members Saturday, hours after the rebels attacked a large-scale mine site in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental, on Friday night, the military said.

Capt. Leo Christopher Cunanan, spokesman of the Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, declined to name casualties until their families are informed, but said those killed and injured are all enlisted personnel assigned at the 47th Infantry Battalion.

The clash occurred in Sitio Omas, Brgy. Camindangan, around 7:40 a.m. and lasted for about an hour, Cunanan said.

The rebels also managed to take six firearms from the troops, who were sent to pursue an NPA members who attacked the compound of Philex Mining Corp. in the same area, he said.

An undetermined number of rebels entered the mining company’s compound around 9 p.m. Friday, and burned two employees’ barracks, a tractor with drilling machine, generator set, computer, hand held radio, and personal belongings, Cunanan said.

Pursuit operations against the rebels were still continuing Saturday despite the clash that claimed soldiers’ lives, he said.

“The perpetrators shall be identified and will be charged accordingly with appropriate criminal cases in court,” Cunanan added.

Philex Mining is currently trying to revive a copper-gold mine called the “Bulawan Project” in Sipalay City.

The mine was decommissioned in 2002 because of low metal prices prevailing at the time.

Higher gold prices have prompted Philex Mining to re-explore the mine, which is estimated to have 23.9 million tons of mineralized ore. (John Roson)

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