LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The House committee on natural resources approved the proposed enactment of a bill authored by Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan that seeks to declare the Municipality of Kibungan a mining-free zone and providing penalties for violations of the proposed measure.
The committee found merit to HB 4387 amidst the opposition of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau which stipulated that the declaration of Kibungan as a mining free zone will just be superfluous considering that there are numerous laws, including Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples rights Act (IPRA), which requires companies intending to develop the natural resources of the State to seek the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the affected indigenous peoples (IPs) and indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) before pursing their desired development, thus, the said law is a sufficient safety net to guarantee the protection of the rights of the IPs from possible abuses.
Cosalan defended his proposed bill by underscoring the fact that its enactment into law will mean that the people of Kibungan will have the peace of mind on the possibility of the entry of large-scale mining companies in their ancestral domain in the future.
Under the said bill, all small-scale and large-scale mining operations within the jurisdiction of Kibungan are prohibited.
Cosalan pointed out it shall be unlawful for any person to engage in any mining operation in Kibungan and that any person found guilty of violating the pertinent provisions of the proposed law shall be penalized with an imprisonment of at least 6 years but not more than 12 years and a fine of at least P100,000 but not more than P500,000.
If the offender is a corporation, firm, partnership or association, the penalty shall be imposed upon the officer or officers of the corporation, firm, partnership or association responsible for the violation of the said bill. If the offender is an alien, the person shall be deported immediately after the service of sentence and the payment of fine.
Within 3 months following the effectivity of the law, Cosalan explained the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for its effective implementation.
Upon approval of the said law, he added, the Kibngan municipal government, in coordination with the DENR, shall review the contracts and agreements entered into by all existing small-scale and large-scale mining operations, those to be terminated, and those to be allowed to continue until such period that their contracts or agreements may allow. Kibungan has been recognized as an ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples of the said area by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) with the award of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title. With the efforts of the Kibungan Kankana-ey tribe and the local government, the 10-year Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plan was formulated and the comprehensive land use plan, which, based on the earlier plan, spells out the areas of the ancestral land as primarily for agriculture, cultivation of high value crops, which is the primary source of the livelihood of the people, communal watershed, communal forest, pasture lands, cemetery parks and institutional purposes among others. By HENT