BAGUIO CITY – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu issued a stern warning against erring large and small-scale miners around the country that the agency will be unrelenting and uncompromising in its efforts to curb the proliferation of illegal mining nationwide.
Secretary Cimatu sent the clear message to miners that ‘no one is above the law’ during the launching of the inter-agency National Task Force Mining Challenge (NTFMC) held recently at the DENR-CAR training center here.
Cimatu led NTFMC members in destroying illegal mine tunnels operated by hundreds of illegal small-scale miners within the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) reservation.
“We want miners to pursue their activities pursuant to existing standards not to compromise the state of the environment. We want to intensify the agency’s enforcement powers to send the message to the public that there is a chance to improve the state of the environment in the country and spare it from further damage,” Cimatu stressed.
The DENR Secretary asserted that the PMA remains to be a property of the government that is why the presence of the 18 mine tunnels in the area is illegal, thus, the need to crackdown on these pursuant to the existing mining laws and regulations.
Five teams swooped down the mine tunnels and confiscated the cyanide, motorized tram and various units of equipment used by the illegal miners, considered to be hazardous to the state of the environment.
He pointed out that it was discovered by the teams fielded around the country that illegal miners are allegedly using hazardous chemicals such as cyanide and mercury to extract minerals from the ore, toxic substances ruin the state of the environment, particularly the bodies of water, and pose a serious threat to the environment and the health of the people living in surrounding communities.
According to him, the weakest aspect in the agency’s functions is enforcement and he plans to convert the task force as a bureau of the DENR to curb the proliferation of activities that pose a serious threat to the environment.
Secretary Cimatu claimed there is no problem if small-scale miners are doing their activities pursuant to standards that does compromise the state of the environment so their sources of livelihood will not be eventually closed by the NTFMC due serious violations of environmental laws, rules and regulations.
While small-scale mining is one of the major sources of livelihood of thousands of individuals in Baguio and Benguet, he emphasized the NTFMC will be aggressive in implementing its mandate to curb the proliferation of illegal mining around the country because it is one of the hazards compromising the state of the environment that deprive the people of sustainable sources of livelihood with the pollution, destruction and degradation of bodies of water, forest reservations, and agricultural areas.
Aside from the confiscation of the units of equipment used for illegal mining, Cimatu said administrative, civil and criminal charges will be filed against those arrested in the anti-illegal mining operations around the country.
By Dexter A. See