ITOGON, Benguet – Mayor Victorio T. Palangdan questioned the consistency of the environment department and its attached bureaus in the enforcement of environmental laws, rules and regulations which is supposedly for the preservation and protection of the environment so that the present and future generations will enjoy living in a good state of environment that had been passed on to them.
Palangdan, who is one of the aspirants for the province’s lone congressional post, pointed out that pocket miners who are mostly members of the indigenous peoples (IPs) are now having a difficult time applying for the establishment of their respective Minahang Bayan in their identified working sites because the areas they are applying for are within forest and watershed reservations, timberlands and patented mining claims of large-scale mining companies.
However, he argued that it seems that the same prohibition is not being applied to large-scale mining companies operating in the municipality as their mining operations are found within the declared Lower and Upper Agno River Basins which are established forest and watershed reservations within the said river system.
The local chief executive claimed that the inconsistency of the environment department in the enforcement of environmental laws casts doubts on the sincerity of the government in having a holistic approach to preserve and protect the environment because large-scale mining companies are allowed to pursue their mining operations within watersheds in the guise of responsible mining but pocket miners who belong to indigenous communities that have protected the environment since time immemorial are deprived to pursue their traditional sources of livelihood due to the alleged threat of their activities to the state of the environment.
According to him, the environment department must show consistency and fairness in the enforcement of its mandate to regain the trust and confidence of the people on the agency that is supposed to uphold the efforts to preserve and protect the state of the environment over and above the interests of certain individuals and large-scale mining companies operating in the locality.
Itogon is one of the mineral-rich towns in Benguet that hosts the operations of the Benguet Corporation (BC), Itogon-Suyoc Resources, Inc. (ISRI) and partly, the Philex Mining Corporation.
Further, Itogon is one of the three first-class municipalities that rely on the operation of large-scale mining companies as their major source of income.
Palangdan expressed hope that the environment department will heed the repeated appeal from not only the concerned local governments but also the IPs to be consistent in the enforcement of environmental laws, rules and regulations so that the purposes of these are realized and to avoid doubts in the minds of the local officials and the people that there are some sectors that are being favored primarily because of the influence they have over those who are in the seat of power.