BAGUIO CITY – Some thirteen Minahang Bayan sites in the different parts of the Cordillera had already been approved by their respective Provincial Mining Regulatory Boards (PMRBs) that will greatly help in legitimizing the operation of small-scale mining that was covered by the temporary ban handed down by resigned Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu over two years ago.
Engr. Fay W. Apil, regional director of the Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR), stated that there are already 4 Minahang Bayan sites each in Apayao and Benguet while one Minahang Bayan site each has been approved for Abra, Mountain Province and Kalinga over the past several years.
Further, she claimed that the approved Minahang Bayan sites could increase in the coming months as there are two areas in Apayao that had already been cleared by the office of the Environment Secretary and awaiting declaration as Minahang Bayan areas by the PMRB.
The MGB-CAR admitted that only one Minahang Bayan site, particularly in Itogon, Benguet, is operational as most of the approved Minahang Bayan sites are still undergoing the rigid process of securing the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples who will be affected by their operations and the completion of the documentary requirements such as the environmental compliance certificate (ECC), small-scale mining contract among others.
According to her, there are more than 70 applications filed by different pocket mining companies for the declaration and eventual approval of potential Minahang Bayan sites covering certain areas in the different provinces in the region.
Earlier, small-scale mining associations that applied for the declaration and approval of Minahang Bayan sites in the different parts of the region called on the environment department to reduce the processes in the approval of Minahang Bayan sites to allow the said industry to recover from the negative impact of the temporary stoppage order that has not been lifted despite repeated appeals from local governments and pocket mining groups.
Director Apil expressed hope that the small-scale mining associations with approved Minahang Bayan sites will be able to process the documentary requirements supporting their small-scale mining contracts for them to already start their operations that will contribute in the eventual revival of the pocket mining industry that had been affected by the temporary suspensions order that had never been lifted over the past 3 years.
She called on small-scale miners associations with approved applications for Minahang Bayan sites to fast track the processing of the prescribed documents for them to already start operating and earn from their pocket mining activities as the same will definitely contribute in providing them with sustainable sources of income aside from helping the government generate resources that will be used to enhance the delivery of basic services and implement development projects within their localities.
Apil stipulated that there are still many small-scale mining groups that are interested to apply for the declaration of Minahang Bayan sites but their proposed sites are located within forest reservations, watersheds, timberlands and patented mining claims.