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BAGUIO CITY – Three Minahang Bayan applications were already issued the required clearances by the environment department that will possibly pave the way for the legitimate small-scale mining in some parts of the Cordillera.
Engr. Fay W. Apil, regional director of the Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR), said that the Minahang Bayan sites that were already issued clearances include the sites in Itogon and Bakun towns in Benguet and Conner in Apayao while another side in Mountain Province is waiting the formal declaration from the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB).
She added that the environment department was able to relax the rules on the issuance of clearance for the proposed Minahang Bayan sites where the same will be issued that will allow the concerned small-scale mining associations to already process their contracts with the MGB while waiting the free and prior informed consent (FPIC). The MGB-CAR official claimed that the FPIC requirement will coincide with the finalization of the small-scale mining contract that will be accomplished to allow the concerned associations to proceed with their compliance to the stringent requirements while completing the FPIC so that there will be substantial movement on their documents to prevent them from being stocked in working out their compliance to the FPIC.
The 3 cleared Minahang Bayan applications is still way below the 7 applications that were filed by various small-scale mining associations from the different parts of the region over the past several years.
In September 2018, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered the temporary suspension of small-scale mining operations in the Cordillera following the tragic landslide incident in Ucab, Itogon, Benguet that claimed the lives of over a hundred small-scale miners and the members of their families at the height of Typhoon Ompong.
Since the temporary stoppage of mining operations in the region, tens of thousands of pocket miners in the mining communities were displaced from their jobs where most of them already went home to their provinces to look for alternative sources of livelihood while awaiting the decision of the concerned government agencies and the PMRB on their applications for the operation of Minahang Bayan pursuant to existing laws, rules and regulations.
In the case of the Itogon-based Luacan Indigenous Pocket Miners Association (LIPMA), Apil noted that the group secured the consent of the large-scale mining company that owns the patent of their proposed area of operation that paved the way for the issuance of their small-scale mining contract while other associations were required to undergo the FPIC process because their proposed sites are within the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples.
She admitted that the tedious FPIC process and the difficulty of securing the consent of the concerned indigenous peoples in their proposed areas of operation is one of the reasons why there are only a few associations that were able to advance in their applications that is why the environment department eased up on the existing rules governing their compliance to the documentary requirements prior to the issuance of their clearances for the said purpose. By HENT