July 17, 2024

The Benguet local government has asked Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Roy Cimatu to lift the moratorium on small-scale mining operations in the Cordillera. 
In a letter, Gov. Melchor Diclas has informed Cimatu through Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Wilfredo Moncado that small-scale miners are clamoring for the lifting of the moratorium, as thousands of them and their families have been greatly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In view of all the ill-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the local communities are in dire need of decent livelihood, especially that there are no other immediate alternative jobs that can be provided for them,” Diclas’ letter to Cimatu reads.
Diclas said the small-scale miners are mostly members of the different indigenous cultural communities of the province who claimed their mining areas have been in operation since time immemorial while other sites are operational for more than four decades now.
The governor said based on records, the locations of the small-scale mining operations are within the areas applied for minahang bayan. 
“May I convey my support to their request that said moratorium be lifted. If granted, we will issue a temporary small-scale mining permit to those whose areas are within the pending application for minahang bayan. This will give relief to the small-scale miners including their family members in sustaining their daily needs,” he said.
Three years ago, Cimatu declared a moratorium on small-scale mining operations in the region following the mountain landslide caused by Typhoon Ompong in 2018 that killed dozens of miners and other individuals in Ucab, Itogon, Benguet.
MGB-Cordillera records show there are four declared minahang bayan in the region.
The two are in Benguet with one in Itogon applied by the Loacan Itogon Pocket Miners Association covering 64 hectares, which was declared on Jan. 15, 2019; and in Bakun applied by the Gambang, Bagtangan, Goldstar covering 287 hectares, declared on June 19, 2019.
The third site is located in Conner, Apayao applied by Olivia Catral covering 20 hectares, which was declared in Feb. 4.
The fourth site declared on Nov. 17, 2020 is in Sagada, Mountain Province applied by the Northern Sagada Barangay Small-Scale Miners Association Inc. covering 10 hectares in Barangay Fidelisan.
There are 51 other applications undergoing various processes and evaluations.
Apayao and Benguet have the most minahang bayan applications with 15 each followed by Abra with seven; Baguio City with six; Mountain Province with four; and two each for Ifugao and Kalinga. – Ofelia C. Empian