Communist guerrillas have freed a gold mining company officer and two other employees after two days of captivity in the southern Philippines, officials said yesterday. A rebel spokesman said they had been questioning the three about company weapons. The three, who included the company owner’s son, were released unharmed late on Saturday by the New People’s Army rebels outside Rosario town in Agusan del Sur province, regional army spokesman Major Eugene Osias said. Army troops suspended a manhunt to allow officials to safely negotiate the hostages’ release, he said.
About 30 guerrillas attacked the VTO mining firm on Thursday, abducting the three and seizing at least 17 rifles, shotguns and pistols, Osias said.
Rebel spokesman Jorge Madlos said they suspected the mining firm had a stockpile of weapons. The rebels have asked mining companies not to keep lots of weapons that they say could be used by security men to commit human rights abuses and harass villagers.
The guerrillas did not plan to abduct the three, Madlos said. The rebels were asking the employees about the alleged cache of weapons when they were told that army troops had been seen nearby, prompting them to take the three to a rebel encampment to continue the questioning.
The New People’s Army, which is listed by Washington as a terrorist group, has intensified attacks on mining companies and banana plantations in the south in recent years, accusing them of exploiting the country’s resources and workers. The rebels are estimated to number slightly more than 4,000.
In one of their biggest attacks staged in years, more than 200 guerrillas stormed three sprawling nickel mining compounds in October last year in southern Surigao del Norte province, briefly holding company staff hostage and burning offices, heavy equipment and several trucks. Government forces have strengthened security at the mines.
The rural-based Marxist rebellion has raged for 43 years and is one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies.