BAGUIO CITY – The Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera approved a resolution earnestly requesting Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to facilitate the simplification of the existing requirements and approval process for the declaration of Minahang Bayan sites in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
The region’s policy-making body chaired by Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan stated that the recent tragedy when Supertyphoon Ompong devastated the Cordillera on September 15, 2018 resulting in 116 deaths mostly in small-scale mining areas in the mineral-rich town of Itogon, Benguet highlight the urgent need to regulate and assess the small-scale mining sector with the declaration of potential Minahang Bayan areas.
Republic Act (RA) 7076 otherwise known as the People’s Small Scale Ming Act of 1991 requires that small-scale mining operations be undertaken only within declared people’s small-scale mining areas or Minahang Bayan while RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) requires individuals, groups and companies intending to exploit, develop and utilize the resources of the State within the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples or indigenous cultural communities require the proponents to first secure the consent of the affected IPs-ICCs through the conduct of the free prior and informed consent prior to the pursuit of the desired activity.
The resolution added that small-scale miners find it difficult to comply with the stringent requirements for the approval of Minahang Bayan because of the FPIC requirements considering the pendency of 54 applications for the declaration of Minahang Bayan sites pending in the region.
According to the resolution, small-scale mining is a significant source of livelihood in the Cordillera involving more than 20,000 pocket miners and their families who rely on the said industry as their main source of income over the past several decades.
Earlier, the RDC-CAR initiated dialogues between concerned government agencies and other stakeholders including small-scale mining representatives to address issues in the small-scale mining sector wherein it was raised that the primary hindrance to the declaration of Minahang Bayan sites in the different parts of the region is the requirement on the conduct of FPIC for the affected IPs to give their consent for the pursuit of the pocket mining operations within their ancestral domain.
The RDC-CAR tasked the DENR-CAR and its attached bureaus to conduct consultations with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) to possibly simply the requirements for the issuance of the free and prior informed consent as a requirement for the approval of Minahang Bayan sites in the region for displaced pocket miners to sustain their improving economic activities and sources of livelihood through small-scale mining operations.
In the absence of a declared Minahang Bayan site in the region, small-scale mining is considered illegal and therefore a part of the informal economy.
However, pocket mining is a significant source of livelihood and employment for numerous individuals in the Cordillera and as an underground economic activity, there is a dearth of information on pocket mining with estimates of workers employed in the sector ranging from at least 20,000 to 100,000.
By Dexter A. See