In upbeat mauled
Also minding the economy at this time, as a job for the motorbiking Duterte Harley, going on almost six months in power, may seem to be a good idea. Our latest info indicated that the business sector remained the wretched target of NPA guerillas in their little extortion racket.
Respectably termed as “revolutionary taxation,” the racket already moved out of the rural areas, going fast toward business centers in urban areas in Mindanao. That, by the way, was Duterte country, the homebase of the President that gave him the landslide victory in the elections last May. It seemed to the business sector in the south that nothing much changed.
Now, the perception in the business sector was that the administration of Duterte Harley locked itself on a single issue: The antidrug campaign. The President of course gave himself six months to get rid of those prosperous drug syndicates that, if they would destroy his country, he promised to kill. Today we are still nowhere near even just getting a tiny inkling on who they actually are—much less laying a hand on them.
Early on in his term, Duterte Harley talked about this laudable plan to lure huge investments, thus putting the country on an upbeat mood on the economy. He promised to give business the “golden age of infrastructure” and to cut the miles and miles of bureaucratic red tape and to bring about lasting peace and order.
Privately, however, business groups were starting to talk ill of the current ceasefire between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF. For one, the NPA guerillas in Mindanao were probably taking advantage of the ceasefire since those loose groups could not be answerable to anybody at all—not even the supposed leaders of the left!
In Mindanao, the NPAs even set up camps in population centers, openly recruiting new members and extorting money from businesses. And they did it within striking distance of police stations and military detachments. In the extortion racket, anyway, the NPA guerillas severely mauled three industry groups: Plantation owners, bus companies, and contractors. One banana company shut down operations at its plantation in Surigao del Sur, saying it could no longer afford to pay for the tax.
To think, in the past six years, it already coughed off more than P20 million to the heavily armed NPAs precisely to keep the jobs of the people in the plantation. Last month the NPAs also burned a bus owned by the Yellow Bus Lines (YBL) in Sarangani, which could easily cost P5 million. From what I gathered, it was not the first time; YBL suffered a similar scorching incident in South Cotabato in the same month.
Our info was that the NPA guerillas used its “burn” style of menace at least four times last month, including the torching of heavy equipment in road construction. Reports noted that “suspected” NPA guerillas burned some P30 million worth of equipment of the construction company. Last year the NPAs destroyed roughly P250 million worth of equipment in Mindanao. They also supposedly asked for “commission” from government contractors of at least 10 percent of the project cost.
Even telcos were not spared, which belonged to the sector that Duterte Harley wanted to shape up or else. The NPA guerillas also demanded from the telcos what my source called “impossible” amounts, adding to the high costs of setting up cell sites, which would even take some 25 permits.
But aside from plantations, construction and telcos, the victims of NPA extortion included quarrying operators, public market stallholders and small entrepreneurs. The amount could range from P5,000 to P5 million—and it was, well, every month. If the poor guys would give in to the NPAs, they would be forced to close shop, and they shuddered to think of the consequence of doing otherwise. In some areas, the NPAs even extorted from LGU officials for so-called PTC—or the much feared “permit to campaign.”
Uh-oh, who then could the business sector expect to help in its struggle?
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