Suspension of illegal small -scale mining sought

BONTOC, Mountain Province – The Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) asked for a moratorium or suspension of all small scale mining activities in the municipality pending application of small-scale miners to secure mining permits or to operate as a Minahang Bayan.

Present during the MPOC meeting were the municipal elective officials, personnel from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Bontoc Municipal Police Station (MPS), Bontoc Municipal Fire Station (MFS), the Municipal Local Government Operations Officer (MLGOO), Department Heads of the Bontoc municipal government and barangay officials of Bontoc.

This decision of the body came-out when Police Senior Inspector Faith Ayan Igualdo, the Acting Chief of Police of Bontoc MPS appealed for the regulation of small –scale – mining activities in the capital town during the MPOC meeting on May 23, 2018 in Barangay Caluttit, Bontoc.

Bontoc Mayor Franklin C. Odsey who is also the Chairperson of the MPOC vouched that in Barangay Mainit, specifically on the mining site ordered by the court to be closed has been abandoned and the equipment installed in the mine working areas were dismantled.

Odsey clarified that he is not against small-scale mining as this has been the source of livelihood of some of the constituents especially in the upland barangays. Thus, he voiced out his full support to the decision of the MPOC asking all small-scale miners in the locality to stop until they have secured mining permits.

With the problem on the permit to be granted to small-scale miners to continue their trade legally, Odsey appealed to the concerned government agencies to help and assist them.

“My only request is for the agencies concerned to assist the small-scale miners in organizing their associations, aid them for the registration of their association, and help them in securing their small-scale mining permits,” he remarked.

With this, he proposed that Republic Act No. 7076, known as the Philippine Small Scale Mining Act of 1991 be adopted for the small –scale miners in Bontoc to operate legally. He believed that the act when implemented shall improve the management of small-scale mining operations vis-à-vis the protection of the environment, and the populace.

“This is our stand as a council. Let us inform them (the pocket miners) in our respective barangays to stop small-scale mining activities until they are duly registered,” Odsey stated.

Elizabeth B. Antolin, the Officer in Charge of CENRO based in Sabangan emphasized that they are not against small-scale mining as long as it passes through the right channel and legal process.

She explained that this is also for the preservation and protection of the environment, natural resources and the community; to ensure that the mining operation will not pose threat to the water source of the households, rice fields and “uma” (swidden farms).

Antolin added that once small-scale mining activities operate legally, the municipality will benefit from it as taxes shall be paid.  Whatever amount collected, will provide additional revenue not just for the barangay but also for the municipality and the province. These taxes are in return will benefit the populace through government services and programs.

Also, she shared that in Bontoc, there was one proponent from Barangay Mainit that applied for small-scale mining permit. However, it did not materialize as the proponent did not continue with the requirement of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) that a Free-Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) must be conducted to the host or affected community.

In response to the organization of the small-scale miners, Antolin responded that there is the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) that can be tapped to help in forming the association of the small-scale miners.

As per record, there was no approved small-scale mining or Minahang Bayan application in Mountain Province issued by the government.

By Alpine L. Killa

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