DENR suspends small-scale mining in Cordillera

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
DENR suspends small-scale mining in Cordillera
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the revocation of mining permits was made “to prevent further danger” to the lives of small-scale miners.

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) yesterday ordered the suspension of all small-scale mining operations in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in the wake of typhoon-induced landslides that left dozens of people dead. 

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the revocation of mining permits was made “to prevent further danger” to the lives of small-scale miners.

“I officially order (all illegal small-scale mining work) to cease and desist operations in the whole of CAR,” Cimatu said at a press briefing in Benguet. 

“The order of revocation is to the small-scale miners in CAR only. It does not cover big-scale mining. We might be filing charges against them if they don’t stop despite the (cease and desist order). They could be charged with mining without permit or theft of minerals,” he added.

Cimatu said the revocation would cover the temporary contracts of 10 small mining associations that were issued temporary permits. 

Congress has to repeal the Philippine Mining Act to put an end to mining, which has caused environmental destruction and triggered deadly landslides, President Duterte said.

At a post-disaster meeting in Benguet yesterday, Duterte blamed mining for the landslides, which he said has “contributed a lot of heartaches to the Filipino people.” 

“If we cannot end mining because of the law, to end mining... Congress will have to abrogate the law,” he said. 

“Mining has been operating in this country uncontrolled,” he added. 

“The mining industry, it has not contributed anything substantial to the national economy...I admit we earn P70 billion a year... In the end, how much do you lose in the process?” the President said. 

“At present, there are existing applications for minahang bayan (mining area for small-scale miners) in some areas of the region. While we await the approval and proclamation of these applications, we ask our small-scale miners to cooperate and stop all small-scale mining activities here,” the DENR chief said. 

“The DENR will be sending the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to effect the stoppage of all mining activities, especially here in Itogon,” he said. 

Nearly 100 people were buried after a landslide hit a mining shelter in Itogon, Benguet during the onslaught of Typhoon Ompong last Saturday. The typhoon, the strongest to enter the country this year, has left more than 50 people dead, mostly in landslides. 

During the press briefing, Itogon Mayor Victor Palangdan said a technical conference should be conducted first before shutting down small-scale mining. 

“We, the local officials, know very well the situation of our small-scale miners. There are small-scale miners (who) are following the laws... they could not get license or permit because of the provisions under our Small-Scale Mining Act that you cannot apply for a permit if a big mining company will not issue you a permit. That should be amended in Congress,” the mayor said. 

Cimatu said the suspension of small-scale mining operations would be the first phase of their response to the landslides. The second phase would involve relocating small-scale miners to safer places. 

Fay Apil, Mines and Geosciences Bureau director for CAR, said 10 mining associations were given temporary small-scale mining contracts. Of the 10,000 small-scale miners in Itogon, only about 500 are members of the associations. 

“This time, I will be more strict in the location of the minahang bayan. They should not stay in areas prone to disasters. This is a wake-up call,” Cimatu said. 

Cimatu vowed to look into the suggestions of local executives but cited the need to strictly regulate mining operations.

“They will be required to pay the taxes, they will be required to observe the regulation in mining, sanitation and no mercury and their tailings should not reach the river. There’s no way you can get into mining if these are not complied with,” he said. 

For his part, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the government is ready to provide assistance and livelihood to residents affected by the suspension. He said the labor and social welfare departments have cash-for-work programs while the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority has alternative livelihood projects. 

Benguet Gov. Cresencio Pacalso said they would also work with the social welfare department so that the affected families can be enrolled in the government’s cash transfer program.





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