Benguet governor says legalizing pocket mining favors environment

By JOSEPH GREGORIO
www.nordis.net

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The governor of Benguet province sees legalizing the operations of small scale miners as beneficial to the environment.

Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas said this ensures the monitoring of the mining-related activities compliance to government standards.

The official said there are still miners who have no other livelihood and have no choice but take their chances in illegal mining operations. He also acknowledged that it is hard to bar these people from their only source of income so it is best to meet with them halfway.

Admittedly, Diclas said they have no data yet on the ratio of small-scale miners operating legally and those that have not yet acquire the license.

He revealed that in one meeting of the Provincial Mine Regulatory Board (PMRB) Benguet Corporation, Inc. (BCI) urged the body to close illegal mining tunnels located in its patented mining claim. The company also requested the authorities to apprehend illegal pocket miners operating in the area.

According to him, Itogon Municipal Mayor Victorio Palangdan already addressed the issue through an administrative order for the police and other law enforcement to act on the matter.

The PMRB approved in January 64.65 hectares for Minahang Bayan in Loacan, Itogon. Of this area, 56.21 hectares are within the patented mining claims of BCI.

He expressed hope that small-scale miners will be able to comply with the meet the provisions set to operate the Minahang Bayan in Itogon and other places in the province. Under such conditions, he believes the authorities can effectively monitor and regulate the activity.

The governor also appealed to the concerned offices to help the miners in their license application so they can continue their livelihood legally.

Last January, the Cordillera Regional Development Council requested the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to talk with National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to simplify the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) for Minhang Bayan. The council also forwarded a resolution urging the DENR chief to make the process easier.

These came after pocket miners raised that under the Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, they have to hurdle tedious requirements and the difficult process before they can continue with their livelihood.

According to a scoping report submitted to the province in 2018, households in seven of the 13 towns of Benguet depends on pocket mining, with 81 small scale mining associations. # nordis.net

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