MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine environment minister said she has been given the greenlight by President Rodrigo Duterte to explore an unorthodox strategy to rehabilitate and develop the country’s mining areas: recruit communist rebel fighters to help.
The plan of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez, who has ordered the closure of more than half of mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier, may be tough to carry out given the decades-long conflict between the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and the Philippine government that has killed more than 40,000 people.
Lopez, an environmentalist-turned-regulator, believes it can work though.
“What I’ve seen with the NPA, they just really want to get people out of poverty, they’re really not bad people,” Lopez told reporters on Thursday. “We might have a situation where miners work with the NPA. We must come from the same page.”
NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, earlier this month agreed to a temporary truce with government, the first time both sides have agreed to a joint ceasefire since November 1986.
Lopez said she’s initially looking at working with NPA rebels to develop a mining province in southern Mindanao island, and had asked Duterte’s permission at a recent cabinet meeting and “he gave a go-ahead.”