Del Monte laments NPA attack in Bukidnon

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Feb 20 2013 03:40 PM | Updated as of Feb 21 2013 09:07 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) – Del Monte Philippines is clueless why its plantation office and truck yard in Camp Phillips, Bukidnon were attacked by rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) on Tuesday.

In a statement, Del Monte management said the plantation had been operating in Bukidnon for more than 80 years.

“The incident is truly unfortunate, and Del Monte management is unaware of the reasons why the rebels committed such acts of violence. Del Monte has been operating in Bukidnon for the last 87 years, and it has provided gainful employment to over 20,000 people across 10 municipalities.

Del Monte added that it has "undertaken numerous socio-civic projects that continue to improve the lives of many families in the province."

Del Monte has tightened security measures in its plantation office and truck yard but the firm said the attack did not hamper its operations.

“Company operations were not affected by the incident. Del Monte’s key assets at the plantation and cannery have been safely secured,” the firm said.

The attack, which occurred at around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, left one security guard dead.

Two more security personnel were wounded in the incident, but the office employees were unharmed.

Del Monte said around 100 heavily armed men first robbed a Caltex gas station along Damilag road before burning three heavy equipment units and a personnel bus in the Del Monte truck yard.

The rebels then tried to torch equipment at Del Monte’s plantation office, the firm said.

“Fortunately, Del Monte employees who were trapped in their offices escaped unharmed. The rebels exited via Dahilayan road where they were pursued by the police and military,” said Del Monte.

DOLE attack

NPA rebels launched a simultaneous attack at the Dole Philippines compound in La Fortuna, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.

According to Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division, around 20 fully armed rebels attacked the Dole compound.

Osias suspects that the attacks are linked to extortion.

“The main reason is the failure to extort money from these companies and another one is that they want to project a position of force because this will strengthen their demands for 'permit to campaign' and 'permit to win' this coming election,” Osias told ANC on Wednesday.

He said pursuit operations against the rebels are ongoing.

NPA owns up to attacks

The NPA, meanwhile, has confirmed that it is behind the attacks in Bukidnon, saying it has destroyed several heavy equipment and seized 19 assorted firearms and computers.

The communist group said it launched the attacks against Del Monte and Dole in defense of workers, peasants and Lumads who, according to the NPA, are “exploited” and “oppressed.”

The NPA also accused the 2 companies of “seriously ravaging the environment” in their operations.

"After a series of killer typhoons wrought havoc to the hapless victims, the culpability of the environmentally-destructive operations of logging, agribusiness and mining companies is repeatedly exposed. Now is the time to serve justice to the victims of these man-made calamities," the NPA said in a statement.

The rebels said the firms "must immediately stop the expansion of their plantations,” reiterating its call “to end all their environmentally-destructive operations, landgrabbing and their exploitative and oppressive activities."

They also issued a warning against contractors of Del Monte and Dole.

"As to their contractors, we warn them again to seriously consider the security of their business before closing deals with multinational agribusiness companies such as Del Monte and Dole," the NPA said.