By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Leaders of the Benguet Federation of Small Scale Miners, Inc. (BFSSMI) said the Executive Order 79 is confusing.
BFSSMI President Engr. Lomino Kaniteng in the special Kapihan held here last July 26 said while the group welcomes the new mining EO there are issues that should be addressed. He pointed out the confusion the EO created in connection with existing small scale mining (SSM) laws.
Kaniteng cited the Department of Justice opinion signed by Secretary Leila Delima stating that PD 1899 “no longer has the force and effect of law” in contrast with section 34 of Republic Act 7076 also known as the Peoples Small Scale Mining Act of 1991 stating that in the absence of a Minahang Bayan in the area Presidential Decree 1899 applies. He further said that PD 1899 provides that SSM operators shall only pay income taxes but RA 7076 obliges them to pay all other related taxes.
PD 1899 issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1984 allows the issuance of special permits for SSM.
“In this light the EO is confusing especially that it is silent about PD 1899. This should really be clarified and existing national laws should be reconciled hopefully in the IRR (implementing rules and regulations),” Kaniteng stressed. He added that the EO seems to restrict the power of governors to issue special permits to SSM operators in their territories.
Kaniteng also highlighted that the inputs from the SSM industry during the consultations done before the signing of the EO were not included. He added that they were told that their inputs shall be considered in the crafting of the IRR.
He shared that the BFSSMI participated together with representatives of large scale mining firms and environmentalists in at least three consultations before the signing of the EO.
“We submitted written inputs together with other SMM groups from as far as Mindanao. We were invited to at least three consultations where we presented our concerns. Surprisingly, not one was included (in the EO),” he reiterated.
Kaniteng said they will resubmit their inputs to the Climate Change Committee and the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) who are drafting the IRR.
“We are not against the regulation and legalization of SSM but the government should also consider our concerns,” he added.
BFSSMI Vice President Guilermo Padsoyan called on provincial government officials to help them forward their concerns. He also said government should help them legalize all SSM operations and avoid closures.
“The EO affects us small players. The way it is, all mines will turn into large scale. If that happens, we, the small players will not be able to compete,” he said in Iloco.
Benguet Vice Governor Crescencio Pacalso pointed out that the new mining EO will affect the lives of the majority of the province’s population. He stressed that SSM is a major source of livelihood of the people of Benguet.
Pacalso said the confusions the EO brought about made over 30,000 miners depending on SSM to feed their families and put their children to school wary that their operations might stop as there is no declared Minahang Bayan yet in the province. He added that “effective immediately” clause of the EO adds to the concerns of affected SSMs.
He also highlighted that SSM was already in place even before the large scale mining or even declarations of protected areas. He said that historically the Igorots have been trading with gold even before the Spaniards came.
The vice governor shared that the provincial board of Benguet already drafted an SSM code for the province but it was returned to the drawing board after the EO was signed. He said the draft SSM code needs to studied and redrafted to ensure that it will stand the “reasonable limitations” that EO 79 has provided for local government units to craft their own mining laws.
“The reasonable limitations provided for LGUs in the EO is of course debatable. To them it would mean lower, to us we would push for higher. But in any case we will hold on to this provision as guide in crafting the SSM code of the province,” he said.
Engr. Catalino Panganiban of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said they will forward all the concerns raised during the Kapihan to their national office to be considered in the crafting of the IRR. # nordis.net