Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Wednesday ordered Benguet City’s Provincial Mining Regulatory Board to speed up the declaration of a “minahang bayan” for use by small-scale miners.
“I am directing the PMRB in Benguet to convene immediately for the declaration of a ‘minahang bayan’ for our miners,” he said.
He said he “politely” turned down the petition by miners and gold panners to lift his order stopping all small-scale mining activities in Benguet following a landslide that killed dozens of small-scale miners in Itogon at the height of Super Typhoon “Ompong” in September.
According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources chief, the suspension order would stay in effect until a “minahang bayan” was declared and already safe for mining operations to resume, particularly within the Benguet Corp. patented area in Sitio Luneta in Barangay Loakan.
Public safety is the government’s top priority, he stressed.
He gave the assurance that those who attended the agency’s dialogue would retain their rightful claim to the mineral resources in the area even with the suspension order.
“You were miners before, you are still miners now, and you will be miners forever,” he said.
The declaration of the “minahang bayan” is the only legal option to continue the mining activities in the area, he added.
The Provincial Mining Regulatory Board is chaired by the DENR represented by director Fay Apil of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau office in the Cordillera Autonomous Region.
Cimatu advised the petitioners to abide by the suspension order and make sure their requirements were complete.
He cited the commitment made by the miners to sell their gold to the Bangko Sentral and called them to pay the right taxes from their income.