MANILA – Environment secretary Roy Cimatu ordered the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to “revisit and validate” applications of existing Minahang Bayan sites across the country.
This is to ensure that the sites – also called as People’s Small-Scale Mining Areas – are safe from geological hazards, Cimatu stressed.
“We will be stricter in approving Minahang Bayan sites, and affirm whether they conform to standards [for the safety of] miners,” the DENR chief added.
The MGB was also directed to ensure that shelters provided to small-scale miners are risk-free.
“Their residences should be far enough from identified geohazard areas,” Cimatu said.
Cimatu said these after the MGB office in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) confirmed that 10 associations of small-scale miners had been granted temporary mining contracts in Itogon, Benguet pending the declaration of a Minahang Bayan site.
Itogon is a landslide-prone area. It is where dozens still remain missing and feared dead due to soil erosion triggered by torrential rainfall brought by super typhoon “Ompong” last weekend.
Cimatu has ordered the revocation of all the temporary contracts effective immediately and called a halt to all small-scale mining activities in the region.
The contracts were issued by virtue of Executive Order EO 79, which aims to implement mining reforms in the country to ensure environmental protection and promote responsible utilization of mineral resources.
One of the provisions to improve small-scale mining activities is to allow them only within declared Minahang Bayan sites pursuant to Republic Act 7076, or the People’s Small Scale Mining Act of 1991.
Cimatu said he would request the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to help the MGB impose complete stoppage of all mining activities in CAR.
He also ordered the MGB to review all geohazard maps in the country and determine which are in known mining sites.
Local government units (LGUs) were also urged to consult geohazard maps prepared and issued by the DENR, which indicates landslide- and flood-prone areas.
The LGUs, Cimatu said, should “not hesitate in evacuating residents and workers during calamities, even if you have to carry them out bodily.”
“Their lives are more important,” he added. (With a report from DENR/PN)