By CLEMENTE BAUTISTA JR.
MANILA — Last March 29, the New People’s Army (NPA) celebrated its 48th year since its establishment. The armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the NPA has been waging a national democratic revolution through a people’s protracted war in the Philippines.
Founded in 1969, the NPA began with just 60 ragtag fighters with only 35 firearms operating in a guerrilla front in the province of Tarlac. According to Jorge ‘Ka Oris’ Madlos, spokesperson of the NPA-National Operations Command, the NPA in 2015 is 10,000-strong operating in more than 110 guerilla fronts in 71 provinces in the Philippines. It also claimed to have hundreds of thousands of people’s militia and community self-defense units.
On the NPA’s 48th anniversary, the CPP laid out 10 urgent tasks for the New People’s Army. It included instructions to ‘enforce policies with regard the protection of the environment, as well as those covering the operations of business and economic ventures to ensure the well-being of the people.’
Having established its own people’s democratic government in guerilla zones, the CPP-NPA has implemented its own policies towards the protection of the environment and defending the rights of the communities. It includes opposing activities of private and foreign corporations that have a proven record of destroying the environment and displacing communities.
There is a long list of punitive actions carried out by the NPA against corporate large-scale mining, commercial logging and agricultural plantations.
In October 2, 2011, the NPA carried out its largest action against destructive companies in the Philippines. NPA battalions destroyed the equipment and the processing plant of Japanese-owned Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC), Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp., and Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC), thus paralyzing the said miners’ operations for months. TMC and PGMC are among the country’s leading exporters of nickel ore to Japan, China and Australia. The Philippine government said the attack cost the mining companies between US$1 billion to US$1.5 billion.
The NPA’s daring attack in Surigao reverberated throughout the Philippines and the global mining industry. Of course, the NPA was condemned by the PH government, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), mining lobby group Chamber of Mines in the Philippines, and racketeer environmental NGOs. The frontline communities, interestingly, did not express opposition to the NPA’s punitive actions.
Even a known environmental activist, who is now a top official in the Duterte administration, quipped “I love these guys!” during a discussion upon learning of the NPA’s actions.
Ka Oris said that “the attack is in line with the policy of the revolutionary movement related to the protection of the environment and natural resources and the defense of the rights of the indigenous people, peasants, and workers. The revolutionary movement shall continue to uphold and to carry our national policy of banning and dismantling large-scale mining, logging, and agribusiness companies with a track record of violating revolutionary policies.”
In the same year, the NPA launched six other punitive actions against mining operations in different parts of the country.
Fast forward, this year on January 29, they disarmed the Selective Security Agency and 3-I Security Agency of Henry Sy, the country’s richest business magnate, at Hacienda Looc, Batangas. The NPA confiscated more than 60 firearms of the security guards and destroyed their facilities.
Communities have reported that Sy’s real estate projects in Looc aim to commercialize 13 natural coves, 25 kilometers of pristine beachfront; forests, mountains, limestone cliffs, and rock formations in areas bordering the provinces of Batangas and Cavite. This real estate “development” has already resulted in the violent displacement of communities in Patungan Village, Maragondon, Cavite, and seizing of lands of peasant and communal fishing ground of fisherfolk in Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu, Batangas.
According to the NPA-Batangas, the action was a warning to Henry Sy and his oppressive private security guards to respect the rights of the local communities, to stop their human rights violations, and to halt their destruction of the area’s pristine ecosystem.
The NPA also recently sabotaged mining shipments in the Cordillera region and hampered the toxic aerial spraying operations in the Davao region.
Even international experts recognize the conservation of biodiversity in the NPA-controlled areas. In a study released in 2016, five (5) new species of orchids were discovered in a guerilla zone in Bukidnon. Plant and wildlife conservationist Miguel David de Leon, Australian taxonomist Jim Cootes, and Filipino biologist Mark Arcebal Naïve who conducted the research recognized that the presence of guerillas in the area is the reason why these plants and wildlife are still protected and shielded from poaching.
We in the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment recognizes that the environmental destruction in the Philippines is directly traceable to the plunder of our natural wealth by big landlords, corrupt bureaucrats, and big business compradors who are all lorded over by powerful foreign corporations and governments. As they plunder (or do their business as they call it), the people and the environment suffer from grave rights violation and from the impact of environmental plunder.
We struggle against this elite rule through people’s barricades, protest actions, and legal and policy interventions, among others. But we also recognize and respect the right of the people to rebel and take up arms to defend their rights and communities. For many communities to survive, their option is becoming clearer — they ought to resist the fascist militarization unleashed by corporations to ‘secure’ its business interests.
It is one of the reasons why, despite the accusations branding the NPAs as extortionists, criminals and terrorists, the armed resistance in the country persists and the communities especially in the rural areas welcome and support the ‘green guerrillas’ as their defenders and eco-warriors.
Currently, the NPA through its revolutionary alliance National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), is engaging the Duterte administration in peace talks and it is proceeding at an unprecedented pace. At the core of the talks is the question of social and economic injustices that cause massive poverty, rights violation, and environmental destruction, the raison d’etre of the Philippine revolution.
Indeed, if Big Business will continue to have their way in ravaging our environment, communities and economy, the green guerrillas in the countryside would continue to have cause for revolt.