ITOGON, Benguet – The management of the Benguet Corporation (BC) supports the establishment of a Minahang Bayan within its mineral claims to sustain and regulate the small-scale mining operations in the locality that serves as the source of livelihood for thousands of individuals.
However, lawyer Froilan Roger C. Lawilao, BC administration department head, said there is a need for the concerned local government units, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and small-scale mining associations to work out the lifting of the moratorium imposed within the whole Antamok area, and for small-scale miners to organize themselves into a legitimate organization for negotiation purposes.
“We had always been supportive of legitimate means as a solution to regulate small-scale mining activities in Antamok. One of which is the declaration of Minahang Bayan in our mine site but we have been prevented by the existing moratorium which must first be lifted in order for us to start negotiating with the legitimate group of small-scale miners in the locality,” Lawilao stressed.
It was learned that former Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza issued an order on January 9, 2009 ordering a moratorium on mining within the whole Antamok area.
Lawilao encouraged the various small-scale mining associations in the locality to organize themselves so that they can have the bargaining power with the company for the establishment of the Minahang Bayan once the moratorium will be lifted to allow them to sustain their activities that serve as their source of livelihood.
Earlier, small-scale mining groups claimed the refusal of large-scale mining companies to issue the necessary consent and the absence of the appropriate free and prior informed consent of indigenous peoples are the major obstacles in the put up of Minahang Bayan sites in the province pursuant to Executive Order No. 79 that trace back to the previous administration.
Lawilao said the company recognizes the important contribution of small-scale mining to the overall economy of the municipality and Benguet province that is why they initially offered the sharing scheme to the interested small-scale mining groups pursuant to the existing system within the Acupan contract mining but the said associations were not united in accepting the said offer.
He said the adoption of a Minahang Bayan in the locality after all the issues and concerns surrounding the put up of the said mining site shall have been effectively addressed by the local government and concerned government agencies is a good measure to legitimize and put into regulation the operations of small-scale mining groups. The establishment of a Minahang Bayan will necessarily embrace safe and environmentally friendly mining practices that will put to an end the destruction of the environment as a result of improper disposal of wastes, he added.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has given small-scale mining groups nationwide a timetable to comply with the put up of Minahang Bayan in their respective mining areas prior to their stoppage of operations once they will not be able to comply with the establishment of the Minahang Bayan site.