Benguet pocket miners clamor for changes in law

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Thousands of pocket miners from various areas of the province sought the assistance of lawmakers and concerned government agencies to help work out the possible amendments of existing small-scale mining related laws, rules and regulations for them to be able to go back to their primary source of livelihood.

Speaking on behalf of the small-scale miners who attended the recent mining congress at the Provincial Capitol, Mankayan Mayor Frenzel Ayong asserted pocket miners are now being treated by concerned government agencies as squatters in their own land which they had been occupying since time in memorial, primarily because of the stringent rules and regulations being imposed on their established sources of livelihood which they inherited from their own ancestors.

“We are grateful to Rep. Nestor Fongwan, Sr. for filing a bill in the House of Representatives to address the present dilemma as the problems faced by constituents of the pocket mining industry are the defective provisions of the law, thus, the ultimate remedy is to work out the amendments to such questionable and controversial provisions,” Ayong stressed.

The Mankayan chief executive proposed that part of the amendments to the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7076 or the Peoples Small-Scale Mining Law and other related laws, rules and regulations should be the extension of the lifespan of Minahang Bayan sites that will be approved from a maximum of 6 years to 25 years similar to the concession granted to large-scale mining operations and renewable for another 25 years.

Further, Ayong pointed out there is also a need for the law to significantly reduce the documentary requirements for Minahang Bayan as such requirements are similar to the ones being required for large-scale mining operations, aside from down-scaling the tedious processes to achieve the desired establishment of Minahang Bayan sites in suitable areas in the country.

He claimed another proposed amendment being advanced by the pocket miners is the conduct of consultations with the indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples on the issue of free prior and informed consent (FPIC) required of the applicants for the establishment of Minahang Bayan within the domain of IPs who are IPs themselves living in their own ancestral domain or communities.

According to him, the consultation processes should be lodged with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) because the processes are tedious and expensive as it will be the proponents that will shoulder the expenses for the same.

He pointed out that concerned agencies should look for ways on how to extend assistance to the pocket miners wanting to establish their own Minahang Bayan sites so that they can bring back the vibrance of the small-scale mining industry in the province and provide sustainable sources of livelihood to the sector as they have already lost a lot since the temporary stoppage of pocket mining operations in the whole region over a year ago. By HENT

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