Cimatu vows to fast track Minahang Bayan applications

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu vows to fast track Minahang Bayan applications following his recent order to shut down illegal small-scale mines.

On February 15, Cimatu visited areas in Itogon, Benguet which are being applied for as Minahang Bayan by small-scale miners. Specifically, these areas are the Antamok which is covered by the patented area of Benguet Corporation and the Gold Creek area which falls within Gold Creek Mining Corporation’s mining patent.

Cimatu promised to fast track Minahang Bayan applications in these areas so that small-scale mining operations are legalized and regulated.

So far, no Minahang Bayan has been declared in the Cordillera Administrative Region. According to the records of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-CAR, there are currently 65 pending applications for Minahang Bayan in the region. Some of these have been endorsed to the MGB Central Office while some still have documentary requirements which are yet to be completed.

The requirements in applying for a Minahang Bayan include petition for Minahang Bayan; the status of the area; evaluation report from the MGB; results of initial review of the DENR and MGB; proofs of notice to mining tenement holders, private land owners, to the host local government units (LGU), and to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP); proof of posting; proof of publication; certification from the City or Provincial Mining Regulatory Board that there is no protest filed against the application and/or that favorable decision is final and executory; endorsement by the majority of LGU council members; certificate of non-overlap and certificate of compliance with corresponding Memorandum of Agreement from the NCIP; and consent from the land owners or companies who have claims over the area being applied for Minahang Bayan. In case of areas with indigenous peoples, a Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is necessary.

According to Engr. Alfredo Genetiano, chief of the MGB-CAR’s Mine Management Division, in CAR, the prerequisites for the FPIC and the FPIC process itself are usually the most challenging to comply with as the documentary requirements for the conduct of FPIC are too technical for small scale miners while the FPIC process takes time.

Crack down of illegal small-scale mines

Earlier on February 14, Cimatu led the blasting of 18 mine tunnels at Sitio Basa, Camp 4 in Tuba, Benguet.

This was just an initial step to the DENR’s bid to crack down illegal mining activities in the country.

“We have to implement the law,” Cimatu stressed adding no small-scale mining activities should be undertaken outside a declared Minahang Bayan, thus a violation to mining and other environmental laws. He also noted that some of these operations make use of sodium cyanide which is highly toxic. In addition, small scale miners do not have safety hazard control measures in their operations.

“I sympathize with these people. Very dangerous ang ginagawa nila. So sana makahanap sila ng ibang ways to earn for a living other than illegal mining,” he further said.

The mine tunnels ordered closed by Cimatu had intruded the military reservation of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Illegal mining operations in the reservation persisted despite a stoppage order issued by the MGB-CAR in 2013. 

            Cimatu has issued Special Order No. 53 creating the National Task Force on Mining Challenge. The task force would ensure strict implementation of existing mining policies and regulations, as well as other related environmental laws.                    

The task force cracked down illegal small-scale mining activities within the vicinities of the PMA; Brgy. Kias in Baguio City; and Camp 4 in Benguet which led to the closure of several adits and confiscation of mineral products, chemicals, and several equipment used by small scale miners.

            He said the task force would help the DENR and its MGB in implementing not only mining rules, but also other environmental laws, such as those on pollution and illegal logging, which mining operations may have violated.

            “Mining operations affect such a huge part of our environment, and are often covered by many interrelated environmental laws that cannot be addressed by the MGB alone,” he pointed out.

The NTF MC, which now serves as the enforcement arm of the DENR, is expected to roam around the country to shut down illegal mines which do not only pose threat to the environment, but also to the lives of small-scale miners.

The Task Force will also run after illegal importers, retailers and distributors of explosives and cyanide which are commonly used in small-scale mining operations. ###

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