In a presscon briefing on the Typhoon Ompong aftermath at the Benguet Capital here on Monday, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered that all small scale mining activities including those covered by permits will be temporarily suspended effective immediately to avoid further loss of lives due to illegal mining.
“To prevent further danger to the lives of small scale miners, I officially order cease and desist order of all illegal small scale mining operations in the whole of the Cordillera Administrative Region,” Cimatu said.
On the ten small-scale mining associations given temporary contracts pending the declaration of a Minahang Bayan, “I will be revoking those permits starting today,” Cimatu said.
Most of the victims in the landslide incidents during the onslaught of typhoon Ompong last Saturday in at least two sites in Itogon were small scale miners and their families. Based on the Cordillera Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council-DILG update, as of 6:00PM, Sept. 17, there were 57dead and 57 missing in the Cordillera mostly in Itogon with 36 dead and 50 missing. Most of the dead and missing were victims of the landslide in barangay Ucab.
The Secretary appealed to all small scale miners to stop all pocket mining activities while awaiting the approval and proclamation of Minahang Bayan applications.
To effect the stoppage of all mining activities in Itogon, he said he will be sending members of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police.
The town of Itogon has a lot of small-scale mining concessions from Benguet Corporation, attracting many people from outside Benguet who are in search of livelihood. There are about 10,000 small scale miners in Itogon alone, according to Bureau of Mines and Geology- Cordillera chief Fay Apil.
With the order, and considering that the livelihood of miners and their families that is mostly affected with the closure of small scale mining operations, Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan requested Cimatu for the conduct of technical conference with the local government unit and the National Task Force Mining Challenge to determine the areas where small-scale mining should be stopped as there are still safe areas to mine in the area.
Palangdan bared that the site of the Ucab landslide is an abandoned mining area but the Benguet Corporation still maintained ownership of the land. Accidents have been happening in the area, and then DENR Secretary Lito Atienza issued a memo order prohibiting small scale mining activities. When he assumed as mayor, Palangdan said he also ordered halt of illegal mining operations and sought the assistance of concerned government agencies, however, mining activities continued. He maintained that the municipality has some areas where mining operations can be done and where miners are safe. (JDP-PIA CAR)