BAGUIO CITY – Concerned agencies agreed to adjust their respective processes to streamline the application and issuance of Minahang Bayan permits and fastrack the 57 pending applications all over the region. This was announced during the 2nd Quarter Watershed and Environmental Management Committee, chaired by DENR-CAR Executive Director Ralph Pablo and co-chaired by RDC Private Sector Representative Dr. Julie Cabato, on May 23 at the DENR-CAR Conference Hall, Baguio City.
The Cordillera office of the Mines and Geoscience Bureau Cordillera (MGB-CAR) shared during the meeting that their central office will defer evaluation of the mining areas applied for Minahang Bayan to the Cordillera regional office. Previously, the MGB-CAR would endorse applications to their central office in Manila after area evaluation have been done.
As of May 2019, 18 applications have been pending in this early stage which has been identified as a bottleneck in the Minahang Bayan application process. Now, MGB-CAR will handle the evaluation of the areas and directly issue notices of application once evaluations pass.
The Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples likewise reported the conduct of the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) process will now be done after the declaration of a Minahang Bayan and during the awarding of the mining contract. This is in recognition that majority of the applicants come from indigenous communities and are indigenous peoples themselves.
According to MGB-CAR, there are 57 pending applications. Currently, there is only one declared Minahang Bayan site which was signed on May 2, 2019 located in Loacan, Itogon, Benguet covering around 64 hectares. FPIC was still required to ensure the involvement of the indigenous community.
There are three other areas waiting to be declared as Minahang Bayan, one in Apayao, one in Benguet, and one in Mountain Province. These areas have been cleared by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and are currently awaiting the issuance of the Environmental Compliance Certificate. Additionally, there are six more sites, three in Apayao, one in Kalinga, and one in Mountain Province, that have been endorsed to the DENR Secretary for clearance.
NEDA-CAR and RDC-CAR recognize that small-scale mining is a proliferating industry and a major source of livelihood in rural areas. The region’s highest policy-making body, through the Regional Development Plan, aims to improve the regulation of small-scale mining pursuant to RA 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991. NEDA-CAR, as the secretariat of the RDC, encourages the regulation of small-scale mining to promote safety and help mitigate environmental damage.
By Marlo Lubguban