ITOGON, Benguet – The first-ever Minahang Bayan that will be established in the Cordillera will fall under the jurisdiction of this mineral-rich town once the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) will be able to declare its existence pursuant to existing law, rules and regulations.
PMRB chairperson and Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) regional director Engr. Fay W. Apil said the 40-hectare Minahang Bayan in barangay Luacan was already given the appropriate clearance by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu after the applicant, the Luacan Indigenous Peoples Mining Association (LIPMA) was able to complete the stringent documentary requirements that support the declaration.
More or less 100 members of the small-scale mining association are expected to benefit from the declaration of the Minahang Bayan site will be declared by the PMRB and become operational in the coming months.
The MGB-CAR official claimed that once the Mianahang Bayan site will be officially declared by the PMRB, the mining association will be mandated to apply for a small-scale mining contract wherein it will be required to submit its environmental compliance certificate (ECC), mining plan, safety and health plan among others.
“We will await the action of the PMRB on the cleared application of the association anytime so that the group can start applying for the issuance of a small-scale contract for its members to start their legitimate small-scale mining operation in the declared site,”Apil stressed.
She added that there are numerous applications for the declaration of Minahang Bayan sites in the different parts of the province and while it is true that the said areas were already cleared by the Secretary, one of the major requirements that they were ot able to comply is the issuance of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the affected indigenous peoples (IPs) in the said places.
However, Apil explained that the case of the LIPMA is different because the proposed Minahang Bayan site is located within the patented mineral claims of Benguet Corporation (BC) which earlier issued its endorsement on the matter that paved the way for the issuance of the certificate of non-overlapping by the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR).
According to her, the major problem of similar Minahang Bayan applications that have been pending with the different PMRBs in the region is the failure of the applicants to secure the consent of the affected IPs, thus, the need for the said pocket mining associations to continue consulting with the concerned IPs for them to issue their consent for them to be allowed to conduct pocket mining activities in their places.
Apil claimed that the PMRB will be meeting next week and if there will be no hindrances, the first Minahang Bayan in the region will be declared and it will be hosted by the municipality. She urged other Minahang Bayan applicants to continue convincing affected IPs to give their consent for their small-scale mining activities in their areas of jurisdiction because it is the one that is actually hindering the declaration of their applied areas considering the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) that require the affected IPs to give their consent for whatever development projects that will be introduced within their ancestral domain. By HENT