Government fast-tracks Minahang Bayan in Benguet

By on October 25, 2018

The government wants to expedite the declaration of a Minahang Bayan in Benguet in a bid to legalize and formalize the sector that extracts more than half of the country’s gold reserves.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has directed the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) in Benguet to immediately convene and declare the area as an official Minahang Bayan.

This after Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu thumbed down the  petition of miners to lift his order stopping all small-scale mining activities in the region following a landslide that killed dozens of small-scale miners in Itogon at the height of typhoon Ompong last month, Philippine Star reported.

“The suspension order remains in effect until a Minahang Bayan is declared and once it is already safe for mining operations to resume, particularly within the Benguet Corp. patented area,” Cimatu said.

A Minahang Bayan centralizes processing of minerals within a zone where the government will be able to monitor gold production by small-scale miners better. It helps the government curb illegal mining and mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of indiscriminate mining operations in the country.

Cimatu said the processing of the application for a Minahang Bayan in Itogon is already underway.

The Itogon mining community, meanwhile, committed to enter into a stewardship agreement in relation to reforestation and environmental protection and rehabilitation.

They also vowed to sell their gold to the Central Bank and the proper payment of taxes.

Processing plants in Itogon have remained closed and will remain unutilized, along with stockpiled mineral ore inventoried by the National Task Force Mining Challenge, unless permitted by the PMRB.

The People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 gives the PMRB the authority to formulate and implement rules and regulations related to small-scale mining.

Currently, only about 20 Minahang Bayan operate in the country but more than 100 applications are pending with the DENR and the MGB. Majority of these are in Cordillera, Bicol, Compostela Valley and Zamboanga.

Being largely fragmented, small scale produces more than the large scale industry but the Philippines does not benefit from them, in terms of taxation, as they are not being regulated.

The DENR is already crafting a six-year roadmap for the small-scale mining industry to improve mechanisms, allow them to be viable, improve the system and enhance the existing guidelines.

 

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