Call to lift ban on Benguet pocket mining snowballs

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ITOGON, Benguet – The call for Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to lift the temporary suspension order that he earlier issued against small-scale mining operations in the Cordillera to snowball following the heavy impact caused by the prevailing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic to their economic activities and sources of livelihood.

Leaders of dozens of small-scale miners associations gathered in Sitio Simpa, Barangay Ampucao here to unify their efforts in convincing provincial officials and legal experts to assist them in bringing to the attention of Secretary Cimatu to consider lifting the temporary suspension order against their pocket mining operations to help in gradually and safely reviving the local economy and provide thousands of displaced small-scale miners with sustainable sources of livelihood.

Romulo Balbalin, one of the leaders of small-scale miners in the municipality, stated that over the past 2 years since the issuance of the temporary suspension order against pocket mining operations, the living condition of small-scale miners and their families became miserable and was aggravated by the implementation of the various levels of community quarantine for over a year now to contain the spread of the deadly virus, thus, they were made to suffer a lot.

He disclosed that there were some pocket miners who ventured on cutflower production, vegetable farming, livestock raising, fish production among other alternative sources of livelihood but they were not successful because they were not trained to immediately shift to such sources of livelihood, thus, they continued to suffer the consequences of the stoppage of their established economic activities.

The small-scale miners associations expressed their all-out support to the earlier communications sent by Gov. Melchor D. Diclas, Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan, Mankayan Mayor Frenzel A. Ayong, the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) and the various municipal councils requesting the environment official to lift the temporary suspension order to allow them to recover from the stoppage of their lucrative activities aggravated by the ongoing pandemic.

According to the leaders of pocket miners groups, the government should be considerate to the plight of the heavily impacted sectors in the province form them to resume their lucrative activities that will be able to contribute in the ongoing efforts to start the recovery efforts from the pandemic because almost all sectors had been deprived of their sustainable sources of livelihood to provide the basic needs of their families.

Benguet is one of the mineralized provinces in the country where some large-scale mining companies and small-scale miners associations have co-existed for more than a century that paved the way for the province to be instrumental in the growth and development of key cities in the National Capital Region (NCR). Itogon is one of the mineral-rich mining towns in the province having played host to the operation of large-scale mining companies and dozens of small-scale miners organizations.

The heavily impacted groups are optimistic that the environment officials will positively act on their peal to pave the way for the resumption of pocket mining operations for them to re-establish their economic activities and sources of livelihood. By HENT