Juan: I was googling “Philippines” and “mineral wealth”; such are the privileges of retirement, when I came across an article with the above title. It dates back to early 2005 and suggests all our economic woes would be over if we just dug stuff out of the ground. Does anyone agree with this or is it old news and have we already made a start on mining our reserves? Look forward to hearing some views and here is the link: http://www.Globalpolitician.Com/2327-philippines
Pedro (replying to Juan): There are urban legends (and you know, legends come from something that was actually, true and the story was just passed on that there’s enough gold in the mountains and oil in the marshes of Mindanao – to pay off the entire foreign debt and have spare change. One major gold mining area has another 50 years of high grade gold ore supposedly. In one gathering it was mentioned the road expansion in the towns leading to the major mining area is in preparation for loading the ore and processing it overseas – this minimizes local pollution although one must say we need to keep our eyes on the actual gold content of the exported ore – better safe than sorry, you know. This highway road expansion (8 lanes) in turn is also tied to the expansion of a deep-sea port in a northern town adjoining one of Mindanao’s premier urban centers. The main issues with mining (from an istambay sa kanto na tulad ko) are this:
1 – The local mining industry has not upgraded its occupational safety practices – if you think foreign mining companies are bad – just you wait till you get to this major mining area – It’s a wild wild west – he who has the gold has the guns, goons, girls, and government. There are stories of daily cave-ins which are not being reported. You know why? Because supposedly, the more blood is spilt in the mining area, the more gold can be found. Quite disturbing you’d think it’s a very subtle form of human sacrifice – in this day and age under our very noses. The abanteros as the mine workers are called – are nameless. – Check out the photos!!! Their names are not recorded when they go the the mines. They have dreams of striking gold in the mines -only to die from bullets, cave-ins, disease, and vice. Each mine owner have their armed guards that watch as the abanteros drill through the rock. Oftentimes the crews of competing mine operators meet halfway, oftentimes ending in a gun battles underground. The competing operators cum owners – the high graders are playing golf somewhere; while underground the respective crews kill each other. The gilded jungle is extremely Darwinian – and pre-Cambrian.
2 – The local gold miners have not parlayed the gold into an upscale jewelry business nor is gold traded in Manila – with good reason -they don’t want anybody to know their wealth – it will set them up for government harassment, not to mention increase their “costs of doing business” – allegedly with the npa, afp, denr, lgu, malacañang, and their private armies.
3 – The ownership of gold and oil will be a continuing battle between malacañang, the local miners, the foreign mining companies, and the local indigenous population (who see the mineral as their community’s heirloom). Allegedly, the local players are concerned that Malacañang will no longer be satisfied with pay-offs and becomes interested in running the show themselves. An attempt was made by national to tap a local player to enter the scene in the said mining area. So far, it has been silent – which means, it’s all good. 😉
4 – The church and NGOs are not helping and often wind up muddling the issue. All they do is rally – it’s a tired solution. The NGOs who lead the natives should enable the communities to learn how their communal mineral assets can be tapped and gain major concessions and substantial equity. Why not pursue a mutually beneficial arrangement where green mining practices are observed and social nets are provided to the community where the mining is ongoing (i.e. Schools, hospitals, housing, employment preference, profit-sharing, oversight committee). Unfortunately, silent whispers abound that hawks in the Pasig tenants are trying to figure out is how to kill all the moros and have the oil and gold only unto themselves – nope, indios not included – just the pasig’s tenants, matinde.
Tomas: I agree that there is actually a lot of gold in the Philippines (esp. In Mindanao) and with the current price of gold, the Philippines can be really rich. However, unlike the middle eastern sheiks and the sultanate of Brunei who all realized that relying on foreign companies and their technology/know-how was the only way they were going to make money on what they had “underneath”, the Philippines has greedy oligarchs who want to do “do it themselves” but aren’t serious about learning the technology and gaining the know-how and aren’t even willing to really invest time and money to really dig it up.
That’s the problem I see so far. One of my recent “hobbies” has been investing in the mineral sector (particularly in gold and precious metals companies) and I have to say, I made quite a killing with philex mining. (Pse: px) one other promising company I’ve put a lot of my net worth in is call tvi pacific (tsx: tvi) which is Canada/Toronto-listed and its principals hail from Calgary, Alberta where there’s a lot of technology and know-how for mining (‘coz apparently extraction is the only thing they can do there: oil and minerals).
This company operates in the Philippines, and its main mine-site is in zamboanga del norte (canatuan). They’re doing pretty well and have been operating profitably, and their mining techniques are solid…They’re generally beating the hell out of local companies because the Canadians have the technical expertise, while many local companies, on the other hand, didn’t have “real operations” and instead just owned the mine-site, and then simply had all these local barrio-type “individual prospectors” come into their mine-site, dig the minerals, and then hand-over a percentage of whatever the individual “small-scale miners” extracted to the owners. In short, many of these local mining companies didn’t have a professional organization of trained people and instead just “farmed out” the extraction to unpaid prospectors. In other words, it was really nothing but haciendero-style tenant-farming implemented on mining! (That’s how it’s been for a long time) rent-seeking was how they did it. In fairness to GMA, it was largely under her watch that the liberalization of the mining sector first started by FVR was continued. Under Erap, he tried to reverse that since he had friends who wanted to keep foreign firms out. Still, a lot needs to be done to get pinoys out of this whole “foreign companies are all evil” cr@p that many of them like to feed on.
Once again, I always bring up the rich middle eastern countries as well as Brunei to rebut that… Without foreign companies, those gulf countries would be nothing but collections of goat-herders and shepherds. Arabia would not be “Saudi Arabia” (with the al-sauds at the helm) and the pilgrimages to Mecca would be the chief source of hard currency. And the Brunei sultanate would just be a collection of sleepy fishing villages. So far, I don’t see malacanang (well, the fvr-gma project, that is) too much as the problem. Generally, I see the same group of nitwits that Pedro identified:
1. National and local oligarchs
2. Church activists (mostly the lib-theo types like that running-priest idiot)
3. Protectionist NGO nuts (they’re the same “anti-foreign” and “anti-capitalist” bunch who only operate because some capitalists somewhere were philanthropic enough to send them funds)
Juan , you can check this out… http://www.Atimes.Com/atimes/southeast_asia/he26ae02.Html
Pedro: Tomas, that’s my beef with the Moro sultanates, I hate to say it but the oligarchs of the Bangs Moro are delusional and fancy themselves like mini sultans of Brunei or mini kings of Saudi Arabia – for crying out loud.. And they make no bones about their “destiny” and “birthright” of holding government power. The “royals” formally wield powers by morphing the feudal structure into the republican government structure. Thus, a sultan or Datu, and becomes the governor or mayor… Commoners – who do not in any way have no pedigree have no chance of becoming an elected official without the approval of the grand sultan or Datu.
The feudal culture gives rise to impunity – from the medieval knights to the caliphates to the sultanates. It’s not just that the Ampatuan massacre is gruesome -it’s also that it happened at a time when media was able to capture the act. In earlier times when Moro clans have rido – 100 is nothing – it’s a no-man’s land policy – kill anything that moves – including the pets.
The royal families of KSA and Brunei had the good sense to send their children to the top schools in Europe in preparation for eventually taking over the government in their generation. In the Philippines, the only few that I know who value education are the tribes who include a current Harvard-trained governor – and even then, he is just a figurehead for the patriarch of the clan. The royals counterparts in other tribes are just too busy with making money, gunrunning, smuggling of contraband from Malaysia and Indonesia, wholesale dealing with shabu (the tsismis that never was heard is that precursors from Shanghai, sent via 14k to Taiwan, entry points in Northern Luzon, transloaded and processed in Northern Mindanao, regional distribution via Central Mindanao, couriers, received by christian area distributors – that can include scions of local executives – narcopolitics in highly populated centers in Southern and Western Mindanao.
As far as the Moro royals are concerned, Malacañang is just an appointed “point-guard” of the oligarch faction in power. The “royals” in turn are power forwards of the point guard.
Then, there’s the ASG.The chatter in the streets from the people without slippers seems to corroborate the speech of Sen Nene Pimentel:
[Privilege speech of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel at the Senate, July 31, 2000]
Long before the tourists of Sipadan were kidnapped on April 23 of this year, the Abu Sayyaf had already been blazing a bloody trail of murders, abductions, rapes, mutilations, arsons, and other heinous crimes that is impossible to match in terms of callous cruelty by any armed band of hooligans locally or even internationally.
To respond to the problem posed by the Abu Sayyaf, it may be helpful if we recalled the circumstances of its creation.
In the early 1980s, the CIA actively recruited, “armed and supported” moujahideens or volunteer Muslim warriors to fight the CIA sponsored-US proxy war in Afghanistan against the Russians who had invaded the country in 1979 and had put up a puppet regime there.1
Thousands of Muslim fighters from many parts of the world, including many young men from the Muslim-dominated areas in Mindanao, enlisted to fight in Afghanistan. After all, the dollar-denominated monthly pay plus incentives of $100 to $300 a month2 was certainly attractive enough for the jobless and impoverished Muslim youths.
These young warriors were, then, trained to – and many did – fight in Afghanistan supported with funds and equipment by the CIA and its network of friendly foreign funders which at that time included Osama bin Ladin, a highly successful Arab business man in the construction industry. Bin Ladin subsequently fell out of grace with the CIA which has since been trying to get him either literally or extradited to the US for his complicity in the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993.
Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, supposedly a colleague of bin Ladin, was directly implicated as one of the bombers of the World Trade Center. Ramzi becomes immediately relevant to our discussion not only because of his supposed connections with bin Laden but more so because soon after the kidnapping of the Sipadan tourists, the kidnappers who had proclaimed themselves as members of the Abu Sayyaf announced that one of their demands was the release of Ramzi from US prisons.
Training as Moujahideens
The training of the moujahideens for guerilla warfare was undertaken by the CIA with the active collaboration of secret, usually, intelligence, services of the armed forces or select military officers in various countries, including our own.
Now, when the Russians had pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, the Moujahideens either returned to their home countries or proceeded to other countries and put their Afghan war military experience at the service of certain fundamentalist causes of Islam.
Birth of Abu Sayyaf
In the case of the Filipino Muslim Moujahideens, most came back to various parts of Mindanao from their base in Peshawar, Pakistan.
In the words of John K. Cooley in his book, Unholy Wars, “This group (of Filipino Muslim Moujahideens) was the core of an armed guerilla band of several hundred men who xxx moved from its Peshawar, Pakistan base to the southern Philippine Islands after the end of the Afghan war. Under the name of the Abu Sayyaf group, it operated on the fringe of the Moros Muslim insurgency.”
Thus was the Abu Sayyaf born.
The Abu Sayyaf took its name from Professor Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an Afghan intellectual, who had preached an ultra-conservative Islamic ideology called Wahabi.
Cooley calls the Abu Sayyaf in the 1990s as “the most violent and radical Islamist group in the Far East, using its CIA and ISI (Pakistan’s intra-military directorate for intelligence services) training to harass, attack and murder Christian priests, wealthy non-Muslim plantation-owners and merchants and local government in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.” [p. 63]
Because the Abu Sayyaf was operating on the fringe of the Muslim insurgency in the country, its partisans were enticed by certain officers of the armed forces to serve as informers on the activities of the Muslim insurgents in Southern Mindanao.
Marites D. Vitug and Glenda M. Gloria name, at least, three military and police officers as coddlers or handlers of the Abu Sayyaf in their book, Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao. One was the commanding general of the Marines at that time, Brig. Gen. Guillermo Ruiz; the other two were police officers, Chief Supt. Leandro Mendoza and Chief Supt. Rodolfo Mendoza.
In the case of Ruiz’s involvement with the Abu Sayyaf, Vitug and Gloria theorize that “The Marines – led by then Brig. Gen. Guillermo Ruiz – apparently flirted with the Abu Sayyaf because they controlled the mountains and (he) wanted to keep his business.” [page 218]
The business of Gen. Ruiz reportedly had to do with illegal logging which led the Catholic Church of Basilan led by Bishop Romeo de la Cruz to demand that the Marines be pulled out of the island. As Vitug and Gloria put it, “By 1994, the Marines were out of Basilan.” This episode has tarnished the otherwise unblemished record of the Marines, who had been held in high esteem by the people in troubled areas where they had been assigned.
Perks from the intelligence services
My information is that the Abu Sayyaf partisans were given military intelligence services IDs, safe-houses, safe-conduct passes, firearms, cell phones and various sorts of financial support.
Edwin Angeles, a leader of the Abu Sayaff in Basilan, told me after the elections of 1995, that it was the Abu Sayaff that was responsible for the raid and the razing down of the town of Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur in early 1995. In that raid, Angeles told me that the Abu Sayyaf raiders were reportedly provided with military vehicles, mortars and assorted firearms. All this time, Angeles was “handled” by police officer, now chief superintendent, Rodolfo Mendoza.
Angeles, if you will recall, was summarily executed, salvaged, if you will, by up to now unidentified persons in 1999. He was killed a month after the principal organizer of the Abu Sayyaf, Abdurajak Janjalani, was shot dead in a reported encounter with police officers.
But even as Abdurajak Janjalani and Edwin Angeles are dead, the Abu Sayyaf up to this very day continues to defy the law, spill blood and cause havoc in the country. In short, the Abu Sayyaf has become a horrifying menace to our people.
For what the Abu Sayyaf has become, the CIA must merit our people’s condemnation. The CIA has sired a monster that has caused a lot problems for the country and is giving the country a horrible reputation in the international community.
The CIA, however, is a tool of American foreign policy. It will do what advances the cause of the US even at the expense of other countries like ours.
What looks inexcusable to me is the involvement of a few officers of the armed forces – handlers of the Abu Sayyaf, my informants call them – in the training of the Abu Sayyaf partisans, the very same group of hooligans who are responsible for the kidnapping of foreigners and locals alike and the atrocities they had committed for several years now.
The best that can be said of these officers is that they had been acting, like Col. Oliver North in the infamous Iran-Contra arms deal controversy in the US, outside the loop of the regular command. Their mission, most likely, was to get the Abu Sayyaf partisans as their sources of information on the movements of the Muslim insurgents and probably of their allies from other Muslim countries and as friendly pawns in the game of divide and rule as far as the Muslim insurgency is concerned.
To that end, these officers did not only “handle” the Abu Sayyaf, they cuddled them, trained them, protected them, passed on military equipment and funds from the CIA and its support network, and probably even from the intelligence funds of the armed forces to them.
It is also quite possible that these officers pursued their own self-interests when they dealt with the Abu Sayyaf.
Butch Fernandez of Today tells me that Gen. Alexander Aguirre was present at a meeting – perhaps organizational – of the Abu Sayyaf. Whatever the nature of Gen. Aguirre’s involvement with the Abu Sayyaf has to be explained.
A retired military officer, brigadier general Ruiz, whom Vitug and Gloria had tagged in their book as responsible for the Marines’ flirtation with the Abu Sayyaf, figured recently in the rescue of an Abu Sayyaf hostage in Sulu. He had his picture prominently taken in the company of Sec. Robert Aventajado, chief negotiator of the government for the release of the Abu Sayyaf hostages. In all likelihood, Gen. Ruiz got involved in the Abu Sayyaf hostage release negotiations because he is supposedly trusted by Abu Sayyaf partisans having been a “coddler” of theirs in the not-too-distant past.
Gen. Ruiz should be called to account for his involvement with the Abu Sayyaf. So should Chief Supt. Leandro Mendoza and Chief Supt. Rodolfo Mendoza.
De Villa and Ramos, too
Naturally, the then chief of staff of the armed forces in the 1990s, Gen. Renato de Villa, should likewise tell the people what he knows of the involvement of the CIA and our own military officers in the creation, handling and supervision of the Abu Sayyaf.
It goes without saying that the commander-in-chief of the armed forces from 1992 to 1998, namely, former president Fidel V. Ramos should likewise tell the people what he knows of his administration’s involvement with the creation, handling, and supervision of the Abu Sayyaf.
In our search for the truth regarding the creation, training, funding, supervision and operation of the Abu Sayyaf, the best evidence would be the testimony of people who possess first hand information on these matters.
My witness, Edwin Angeles, is dead. There is or was a file of video-taped testimony of Angeles with ABS-CBN that should be made available to the Senate in connection with its investigation of the Abu Sayyaf.
Arlene de la Cruz, the lady journalist who had first brought Angeles’ exploits to light as an Abu Sayyaf officer told me recently that the file still exists in the vaults of the ABS-CBN.
It was she who had accompanied Angeles to see me in 1995 to explore my providing Angeles with legal assistance. Angeles’ predicament, then, was that he was reportedly being hunted down by the then Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Rafael Alunan.
Ms. de la Cruz would be a good source of corroborative evidence on many aspects of the operations of the Abu Sayyaf.
A body-guard of Angeles is likewise still alive. Some weeks ago, he told me the names of some other officers of the armed forces who “handled” Abu Sayaff matters. He is, however, deathly afraid of coming out into the open.
If we are unable to ascertain the truth about the responsibility of the CIA and some of our own military officers in the creation, training and supervision of Abu Sayyaf activities from direct evidence of the persons in the know, materials abound that weave an incontrovertible tale of their involvement through circumstantial evidence.
Among the authors who have written about the Abu Sayyaf, to my knowledge, it is Cooley who makes the most direct statement regarding the training and funding of the Abu Sayyaf by the CIA.
Cooley supports his allegations not only with documents obtained from CIA and Russian sources but with interviews that he had conducted with persons in the know of the secret operations of the CIA in connection with the Afghan war.
Today we are faced with a difficult problem of trying to contain, if not eradicate, the curse of the Abu Sayyaf in parts of Southern Mindanao.
The evidence is now overwhelming – unassailable in my mind – that the CIA was the procreator of the Abu Sayyaf and that some of our own military officers acted as midwives at its delivery and who have nursed the hooligans under illegal, if not, at least, questionable circumstances that enabled the latter to pursue their criminal activities to this very day.
We probably cannot do anything about the CIA’s responsibility in the creation of the Abu Sayyaf and the funding, training and equipping of its members by the agency. That is a thing of the past.
But we can and ought to do something about the involvement of our military officers who were active participants or conduits of the CIA in the creation, funding, training and equipping of the Abu Sayyaf.
Preventing a treasonous recurrence
We have to find out what we can do as legislators to prevent a recurrence of the situation where certain military officers of our armed forces became willing tools of the CIA in the creation, funding, training and equipping of this bandit group that has brought so much harm to the national interest in the last several years and opprobrium to our name in the last several months.
The officers who have been identified as coddlers or handlers of the Abu Sayaff in various studies and documents must be called to account.
While the paternal bonds of the CIA with the Abu Sayyaf may already have been cut off, I am not too sure that the filial connections of the Abu Sayyaf with certain officers of our armed forces have already been severed.
Berting: This and the other things discussed so far — gold and drugs, etc. — that take place in Mindanao and other “hinterland” areas constitute information, news, and issues that are not given enough airtime in our manila-centric politics and the “reporting” of our media. Even rumour-mongering is given more airtime in the media. Considering that even the relevant manila-based issues are glossed over in manila in favour of the trivial intrigues of the capital, news and issues from outside of luzon don’t stand a chance. It took a maguindanao massacre or the kidnap of what’s-her-face (hi-profile abs-cbn *bandila* news presenter) to get non-manila issues airtime.
Juan: well that was enlightening, if depressing. Am I to assume, then, that aspects of this topic are considered too hot to handle by …..
Pedro: SSShhhhh… The walls have ears.