ITOGON, Benguet– Mayor Victorio Palangdan ordered the Itogon Municipal Police Station to conduct an investigation on the alleged recent contamination of the Gumatdang River which could be traced to the possible resumption of the processing of ore by small-scale miners either within the vicinity of the river system or from Baguio City.
Palangdan stated that the order to investigate the contamination of the river system stemmed from reports of Gumatdang barangay officials that the water turned bluish recently which meant that chemicals used to process the ore of pocket miners had been illegally discharged to the river system that poses a serious threat to marine life and the health and safety of the residents living in the areas that will be traversed by the river.
He said that law enforcers should immediately arrest the individuals who have discretely resumed the processing of their ore with the use of prohibited chemicals so that they will be appropriately charged because of the eminent danger that they have posed to the marine life in the river system and the health and safety of residents living within the areas traversed by the said river for them to answer for the contamination that they had inflicted to the body of water.
The local chief executive claimed that the resumption of the processing of ore by the pocket miners in the area is still prohibited based on the prevailing temporary suspension order issued by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for the stoppage of all small-scale mining operations in the Cordillera that was issued after the tragic landslide incident that transpired at Level 070 in Ucab at the height of Typhoon Ompong in September 2018.
He directed the law enforcers to immediately arrest those responsible for the contamination of the Gumatdang River and to confiscate the equipment being used for the illegal processing of the ore which will be used as evidence in the filing of the appropriate charges against the alleged erring pocket miners.
While it is true that the enforcement of the temporary suspension of small-scale mining activities in the municipality have heavily impacted on the economic activities and sources of livelihood of the people, Palangdan pointed out that there are ongoing efforts being done by the concerned government agencies and the local government to provide alternative sources of livelihood for the residents to allow them to recover not only from the impact of the stoppage of small-scale mining activities but also the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID) pandemic.
The mayor said that he is just awaiting the outcome of the ongoing investigation on the unfortunate contamination incident to ascertain the appropriate actions that will be done to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in other river systems in the municipality so as not to pose a serious threat to the sources of livelihood of fisher folk living in various communities not only in the locality but also in neighboring areas in the lowlands.
Palangdan urged small-scale miners to continue complying with the temporary suspension order that had been previously issued by environment officials and to await whatever future decisions that will be rendered by concerned government agencies instead of trying to illegally operate which might cause more problems for them in the future. By HENT