Small-scale miners push for pocket mining areas

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BAGUIO CITY: The Benguet Federation of Small Scale Mining Industry is pushing for the release of the Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR) for Executive Order No. 79, including government’s go-ahead to the proposed minahang bayan areas in nine out of the 13 municipalities of the province.

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Lomino Kaniteng, Federation president at the regular weekly media forum here at Baguio Palace Hotel, pointed out the importance of the IRR of EO 79 to pocket miners whose as small scale mining is main livelihood.

He cited that in their federation of 66 small-scale mining groups involving 200,000 people, only nine groups have been granted mining permits.

EO 79 signed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd in July 6 last year, aims to institutionalize and implement reforms in the Philippine mining sector by providing policies and guidelines to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the utilization of the country’s mineral resources.

He said that his group is pushing for the declaration of minahang bayan areas in the municipalities of Itogon, Bakun, Bokod, Tuba, Tublay, La Trinidad, Mankayan, Atok and Kabayan in a proposal submitted through the Mines and Geo-Science Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Minahang bayan is an identified area where small-scale miners are allowed to thrive and operate.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau -CAR officer in charge Engr. Faye Apil assures that the full implementation of EO 79 is among the priority of DENR Secretary Ramon Paje in recognition of the small-scale mining industry as a major source of livelihood in the countryside.

She also pointed out that DENR is pushing for small-scale miners to go into medium scale operations to do away with the crude methods. With the declaration of minahang bayan areas, DENR also hope to confine mining operations and mineral processing in one area to promote safety, environment protection, better waste management and better education and training for safety and the right mining process.

Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan, who co-chairs the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board with DENR, also called on the federation’s cooperation in ironing out the concerns of small-scale miners and in addressing the gray areas in small scale mining operations. He also sought their help in promoting safe and responsible mining in the province while they wait for the release of the IRR of EO 79.

Fongwan said the mining industry, including small-scale, mining also provides a big share in the economy of Benguet. It plays a substantial role in providing livelihood for the people of Benguet especially in the southern part of the province.

Kaniteng also said that in the past 15 years the small-scale mining group in Benguet has contributed billions of funds to the national government hoping that 60 percent will go the host province and municipalities and barangay— only two percent of such funds goes to the hosts.

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