BAGUIO CITY: The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently launched here a task force aimed at curbing illegal mining in the country.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the DENR–Cordillera office is the best place to launch the task force because of the numerous mining activities in Benguet and some parts of the Cordillera region.
Cimatu said the creation of the task force is to address the proliferation of illegal small-scale mining operations by individuals, groups or communities without securing regulation permit from the government.
He, however, explained that the environmental damage brought about by small-scale mines would be minimized if the operators opt to register under the DENR’s “Minahang Bayan” program.
The scheme aims to register small-scale miners with the locality’s mining regulatory office headed by the local chief executive and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director, enabling the government to monitor and regulate the activities.
Itogon town in Benguet alone is already host to 66 percent of small-scale miners in the province, with the remaining 34 percent spread out in the municipalities of Tuba, Mankayan, Kabayan, Bokod and Atok.
Under the 1995 Mining Act, small-scale miners have to organize a “Minahang Bayan”. Itogon is currently conducting a Comprehensive Land Use Planning, aimed at identifying areas for the Minahang Bayan.
The Benguet Federation of Small-Scale Miners (BFSSM) reportedly at least 25,000 small-scale mining operations in Benguet with 66 associations established.
Rodolfo Garcia, National Mining Task Force head, said most of the small-scale mines are illegal and these unleash untreated water into the rivers, creeks and other water systems, harming the environment and the communities.
Garcia added that the anti-illegal mining task force has a challenging job but would pursue its mandate not only in Baguio and Benguet but in other mining hotspots as well.
During the DENR officers’ visit here recently, they closed down a small mining site under the Philippine Military Academy’s main administration building in Baguio after it caused an explosion at the mine’s mouth or opening.
The mining site was reportedly concealed from PMA authorities.