BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) disclosed that the unclear interpretation of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) is the major hindrance on the approval of existing Minahang Bayan applications in the different parts of the region which has taken its toll in the operation of small-scale miners.
MGB-CAR regional director Engr. Fay W. Apil said one of the identified problems in the conduct of the FPIC is that small-scale mining is being treated at par with large-scale mining which is now the subject of debates among concerned stakeholders.
She underscored that the NCIP should have simplified FPIC rules for applicants seeking the establishment of Minahang Bayan in the different parts of the region instead of applying the FPIC rules for large-scale mining applicants, thus, no other Minahang Bayan application has been approved except that of the Itogon-based Luacan Indigenous Pocket Miners Association (LIPMA).
“The different Provincial Mining Regulatory Boards in the region could not act on pending Minahang Bayan applications in their areas of jurisdiction because of the tedious FPIC rules aggravated by the enormous financial requirements which cannot be provided by the applicants considering that their operations are only limited,” Director Apil stressed.
The MGB-CAR official explained that the rules require the Minahang Bayan applicants to deposit a certain percentage of the operating budget to the NCIP to bankroll the conduct of FPIC activities which is quite excessive as only large-scale mining applicants could afford such amount considering the magnitude of their operations compared to the small-scale miners.
According to her, MGB-CAR is awaiting the Minahang Bayan applicants from Bakun to process the documents to support their Minahang Bayan application as the area was already cleared by the Benguet PMRB and the Office of the Environment Secretary.
On the other hand, she revealed the MGB-CAR is awaiting the clearance from the Environment Secretary on the Minahang Bayan application of small-scale miners from Sagada, Mountain Province before the PMRB issues the appropriate clearance of the area being applied for so that the association could start processing the needed documents for their pocket mining operations in the future.
Apil claimed that being members of indigenous cultural communities, it should be easier for Minahang Bayan applicants to be granted the FPIC after having complied with the supposed simplified requirements instead of fellow indigenous peoples making it difficult for their fellow IPs to acquire their consent for their prescribed source of livelihood.
Currently, there are still 69 Minahang Bayan applications pending action with the different PMRBs in the region with some waiting for the issuance of the necessary clearance from the Environment Secretary for the area being applied for small-scale mining operations while others are supposed to undergo the stringent FPIC process applying the FPIC rules being used for large-scale mining applications.