Mineral land for people’s small-scale mining area in Balbalan proposed

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BALBALAN, Kalinga  – Rep. Allen Jesse C. Mangaoang filed a bill in the House of Representatives reclassifying a certain parcel of land in barangay Talalang, here, as a mineral land open for declaration as a people’s small-scale mining area thereby segregating such land from the national park and from the tourism development area.

The bill seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) 6463 that declared barangay Balbalasang, Balbalan, Kalinga-Apayao as a tourist resort, setting aside certain portions of the public domain in the area as a national park and excluding the said land under the coverage of RA 10561 which declared Kalinga as a tourism development area and for other purposes.

Under the proposed bill, the technical description of the said proposed mineral land is the area “Beginning at a point marked “1” on map, being N 29° 23 ˈ 52 ̎ W, 5,664.053 meters from PRS92 Control Point “KAL-3282 (S-75)”  with geographic coordinates (Latitude 17° 24ˈ 20.41318 ˝, Longitude 121° 07ˈ 36.39486˝), located at Barangay Bagtayan, Municipality of Pasil, Province of Kalinga.

Mangaoang stated that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall appropriately mark on the ground the technical descriptions provided in this Act with clearly visible markers and shall prepare appropriate maps therefor.

He pointed out that the declaration of the mineral land as a People’s Small-Scale Mining Area shall be in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act No. 7076 otherwise known as “People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991”.  Individuals or members of the cultural communities and tribal associations, who have continuously occupied, cultivated and mined either by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interests the said land since 1970 shall be given priority in the awarding of people’s small-scale mining contracts.

Further, the DENR shall issue the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the proposed law.

Balbalan is a municipality located in the upper part of the Province of Kalinga bestowed by nature with beautiful forests, subterranean rivers and caves. The Balbalasang-Talalang Area was in fact declared as a National Park by virtue of Republic Act No. 6463 on June 17, 1972. In the late 1970’s however, mineralization for gold was discovered by hunters in Sitio Gaang, Talalang which resulted into a gold rush. In a parallel geological verification, samples taken from the audits indicated the area viable for Minahang Bayan after laboratory analysis. To date, eleven gold veins were discovered and identified. Small scale miners, mostly members of the Banao Bonong Association who are the indigenous people of the Banao Tribe and residents of Barangays Talalang, Balbalasang and Pantikian in  Balbalan, swarmed and mined the area especially during summer months or dry season.

However, Mangaoang claimed that the place cannot be declared as a people’s small-scale mining area or a Minahang Bayan under the provisions of Republic Act 7076 otherwise known as the Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 due to its classification as a National Park, thus under the coverage of Republic Act No. 7586, the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS). Furthermore, in 2013 the Province of Kalinga was declared as a Tourism Development Area by virtue of RA 10561, making Balbalan’s subterranean rivers and caves, a no-go mining zone.

According to him, it cannot be denied that the small-scale mining operations have sustained the livelihood of the Banao Tribe in Talalang, Balbalasang and Pantikian and the residents of the eleven privileged barangays in the municipality of Balbalan. With the influx of small-scale miners in the area, the operations need to be controlled and monitored, and the area delimited to prevent further encroachment to the National Park.

The two-term lawmaker asserted that the conversion or reclassification therefore of the area in Sitio Gaang consisting of One Thousand Three Hundred (1,300) hectares from a National Park into a Mineral Land thereby segregating it from the National Park and from the Tourism Development Area must be the government’s initiative to sustain the livelihood and economic development of the area and at the same time prevent further degradation and encroachment of the National Park. Once reclassified and segregated as proposed, it will provide viable source of livelihood to our marginalized miners, opening up more opportunities for business and economic development. It will further encourage responsible mining in the area.

The bill is expected to be referred by the House to the committee on natural resources for appropriate recommendations once Congress will start its sessions on Monday, July 22, 2019 where President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA).

By HENT

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