Government moves forward with Minahang Bayan approval

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The government has declared a new Minahang Bayan in Benguet after nearly two years.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau has approved the contract between the government and the Loacan Itogon Pocket Miners Association (LIPMA) in Itogon in Benguet.

The 64.6-hectare site is within the patented mineral claims of Benguet Corp. which earlier endorsed the application.

This is the first Minahang Bayan approved this year.

Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said this was in response to calls for the government to fasttrack various mining applications.

“There is a clamor that’s why we are really fasttracking. We hope to approve more,” Leones told The STAR.

He said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau  (MGB) are on track to approve two to three more Minahang Bayan applications within the year.

“We are not yet sure which area will be the next. But we are looking at those with mining operations in Caraga and in Cordillera,” he said.

There are 141 pending applications with the government.

“We also have to understand that there are several concerns and the process is not that easy,” Leones said.

Among the issues that need to be resolved include overlapping of areas with the large scale mining sites and being part of the no-go zones and ancestral lands.

It is estimated that more than 60 percent of the gold mined in the Philippines are from unregulated small-scale operations.

Declaring an area as a Minahang Bayan will centralize the processing of minerals within a zone where the government will be able to monitor gold production by small-scale miners better.

It helps the government curb illegal mining and mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of indiscriminate mining operations in the country.

Only about 26 Minahang Bayan, both nationally and locally declared, are operating in the country.

More than 100 applications are pending with the DENR and the MGB. Majority of these are in Cordillera, Bicol, Compostela Valley and Zamboanga.

Being largely fragmented, small scale produces more than the large scale industry, but the Philippines does not benefit from them in terms of taxation as they are not being regulated.

The DENR is  crafting a six-year roadmap for the small-scale mining industry to allow them to be viable.



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