ITOGON, Benguet – Hundreds of leaders of small-scale miners associations in the province were told to embrace legal and practical solutions to their prevailing problem on the non-lifting of the temporary suspension order issued by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to allow them to be able to be actively involved in alternative sources of livelihood that will allow them to cope up with the existing difficult situation aggravated by the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Mankayan Mayor Frenzel A. Ayong, who attended the recent gathering of hundreds of leaders of small-scale miners’ associations in Sitio Simpa, Barangay Ampucao, stated that it is high time for pocket miners to start engaging concerned sectors that will be able to help them in advancing their clamor for the eventual lifting of Cimatu’s temporary suspension order that was issued against pocket mining operations over two years ago.
He said that in terms of the legal action, the pocket miners are in the right direction in involving provincial and municipal officials in seeking the Environment Secretary’s reconsideration of the temporary suspension order in light of the heavy impact inflicted by the same to their established sources of livelihood.
Further, the local chief executive pointed out that it is also important for the pocket miners to engage Benguet Caretaker Congressman and Anti-Crime and Terrorism through Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Party-list Rep. Eric Yap and other Cordillera lawmakers to file the appropriate bill that will introduce amendments to pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7076 or the Peoples Small-Scale Mining Act but the same might take some time to be realized because of the tedious processes involved.
On the other hand, Mayor Ayong presented that on the practical side of things, it is important for the pocket miners to be unified in all their endeavors to pursue the proposed reforms in the industry so that concerned government agencies and the local governments will be convinced in pursuing the same that will translate to the effective and efficient efforts to preserve and protect the environment that serves as the source of the minerals being mined by the miners
According to him, it is unfortunate that it is not only the pocket miners who were displaced from their small-scale mining activities but the same also includes the gold panners, thus, the significant number of the population that had been impacted by the suspension order that was aggravated by the impact of the prevailing pandemic.
Mayor Ayong urged the concerned sectors to continue drum beating the issue to send a clear message to the government authorities that the matter now concerns the sources of livelihood of the people living in the various communities where the government must already step into it to address the issue of hunger and lack of sources of livelihood in the mining communities which might be considered a violation of the right of the people to have decent sources of livelihood and economic activities.
Itogon and Mankayan are among the mineral-rich communities in the province that host the operation of some large-scale mining companies and hundreds of small-scale mining associations where over 25,000 pocket miners rely on the same as their major source of livelihood that will sustain the living condition of their families. By HENT