By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The new mining order of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Executive Order (EO) 79 will adversely affect small scale mining (SSM) and further strengthen corporate and large scale mining.
Santos Mero, deputy secretary general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) reiterated that the new mining EO will kill the SSM industry as it gives more leeway to large scale mining companies for the plunder of the country’s mineral resources. He explained that the provision for the declaration of a Minahang Bayan in reality seeks to confine SSM to a very limited area as opposed to what the EO boasts of as a mere regulation of the industry.
Mero further explained that by limiting the areas for SSM, the EO has given large scale mining companies wider areas for maneuvering. He pointed out that areas identified for the application of a Minahan Bayan in the Cordillera are mostly with in mineral claims of large mining companies.
He said that CPA’s computations show that 1.2 million hectares of the 1.8 million total land area of the region is covered with mining applications including overlapping mine claims.
“The tables have now turned, the indigenous peoples are the ones seeking the consent of mining companies to mine the people’s own resources,” Mero stressed.
Mero also reiterated that the EO just reinforces the existing repressive mining laws such as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 that has opened the country to large mining transnational companies for plunder.
“We reiterate our call to scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the passage of a pro people mining bill to protect and preserve what is left of the country’s resources,” he said.
Mountain Province Governor Leonard Mayaen in an interview said that the new EO did not answer the problems with the SSM law which provides very stringent requirements for the declaration of Minahang Bayan area. “Compliance to the requirements of the Minahang Bayan are very hard to accomplish,” he reiterated. He added that SSM has long been a source of livelihood to many IP communities.
Mayaen also said he will support moves to question the EO for as long as it does not go against his position. “I have always been against large scale mining,” he said.
He further said that the Mountain Province provincial board already passed an ordinance banning large scale mining in the province.
Benguet Vice Governor Cresencio Pacalso in an interview admitted that there are many SSMs operating without permit in Benguet. “Local governments in the province exercise maximum tolerance knowing that SSM is a major source of livelihood to many of their constituents,” he said.
Pacalso, however, raised concerns on the impact of the EO on the province’s SSM industry. He explained that the EO has a repealing clause and it is possible for it to repeal the Presidential Decree 1899. He reiterated that the effect of the EO on PD 1899 should be clarified especially so that many SSMs in Benguet are operating on PD 1899 special permits.
PD 1899 was issued in 1984 by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos which allows the granting of SSM special permits to individuals valid for two years and is renewable for another two years.
Faye Apil, regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR in a press conference said the new EO does not ban SSM but seeks to strictly regulate it and confine it to one area for easier regulation and monitoring. She claimed that SSMs are confined in Minahang Bayan areas for easier management of mine wastes with the creation of central processing plants and tailings ponds for the protection of the environment.
She also assured that SSMs with valid permits will continue to operate but shall be subjected to the new EO after the expiration of their permits. She said that SSMs in the region are operating with special permits issued under the provisions of PD 1899.
Engr. Zards Gacad of the MGB said the EO will affect to a larger extent the SSM industry as he pointed out that the new mining order seeks to regulate it. He added that the MGB is also having difficulties in dealing with illegal SSMs. But he said that the impact on the SSM industry will be among those that the agency seeks to clarify before the issuance of the EO’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
MGB data shows that at present the region does not have any declared Minahang Bayan and has only one pending application which is in Bakun. # nordis.net