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BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) disclosed that eight of the nine declared Minahang Bayan sites in the region are not yet operational because of the absence of the required certificate of precondition and free and prior informed consent from the indigenous peoples and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
MGB-CAR regional director Engr. Fay W. Apil stated that the only Minahang Bayan that is operational is the one in Luacan, Itogon under the Luacan Indigenous Peoples Miners Association (LIPMA) because their mining area is located within the patented claim of Benguet Corporation and does not need the FPIC from the indigenous peoples in the host communities.
However, in the case of the 8 others declared Minahang Bayan sites, the interested small-scale miners’ associations need the FPIC of the IPs in the host communities which is not yet available primarily because of the stringent processes involved in securing the same.
The 8 non-operational Minahang Bayan areas are located in Apayao with 4, Benguet with 2 and Abra and Mountain Province with 1 each.
Earlier, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu allowed the declaration of the cleared Minahang Bayan sites even with the absence of the required FPIC as part of the measures to speed up the issuance of such declaration to help the heavily impacted small-scale miners to legitimize their operation and that the requirement of FPIC shall only be imposed once there will be small-scale mining contracts that will be issued by the agency for the said purpose.
According to her, the different Provincial Mining Regulatory Boards (PMRBs) were able to facilitate the clearing and eventual declaration of the identified Minahang Bayan sites but the concerned small-scale mining groups that are involved in the same are having a difficult time processing the FPIC with the NCIP that is why most of the same are not yet operational to date.
In September 2018, Secretary Cimatu ordered the temporary suspension of all small-scale mining operations in the region following the tragic landslide in Level 070, Ucab, Itogon, Benguet that claimed the lives of more than 100 pocket miners and their relatives who were buried inside an abandoned bunkhouse of a mining company at the height of Super typhoon Ompong.
She claimed that the small-scale mining associations that applied for the declared Minahang Bayan sites are eager to operate the same for them to be able to establish their sustainable source of income and legitimize their operations but the requirement for them to secure the FPIC of the host communities is allegedly unnecessarily delaying their supposed operation.
Apil appealed to the NCIP to extend whatever appropriate assistance to the concerned small-scale mining associations for them to secure the required FPIC so that the corresponding small-scale contracts will be issued to them and for the groups to start their pocket mining activities in their desired areas of operation in the different parts of the region.
The MGB-CAR official stipulated that the MGB was able to clear another 2 Minahang Bayan sites in Benguet and Apayao but the same will be subject for declaration by the Environment Secretary in the future which will bring to 11 the number of Minahang Bayan sites that are ready for operation in the region once the FPIC will be available. By HENT