By Madelaine B. Miraflor
BAGUIO — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will not slowdown the declaration of more Minahang Bayan sites in the country despite calls from the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) to amend the law allowing it.
On the sidelines of 65th Annual National Mine Safety Environment Conference, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu told reporters late Friday that he is open to amend the Minahang Bayan law, citing it is not being implemented properly.
However, he does not agree that the government should stop the declaration of more Minahang Bayan sites and close-down the existing ones, a suggestion made by PMSEA President Walter Brown a day earlier.
The declaration of a Minahang Bayan area is the government’s way to “legalize” small-scale mining operations in the Philippines, which nets around P30 billion to P40 billion a year in revenues.
It is provided in Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, also known as the Minahang Bayan Law, which states that small-scale mining operations must be done only within the declared area for such purpose.
Currently, there are just nine nationally declared Minahang Bayan areas across the country, while 11 areas have been locally declared as such.
“We have to declare [more Minahang Bayan sites] so as we go along, we can make changes [in the guidelines],” Cimatu said.
“We won’t close down the Minahang Bayan sites because they [small scale miners] are mining in those areas,” he added.
Right now, there are more than 100 Minahang Bayan applications across different parts of the country.
During the same conference, Brown said in a separate interview that before the government works towards the declaration of more Minahang Bayan sites, it should first amend the law that allows it.
PMSEA is a group of mining companies that seeks to promote occupational safety and health, sound environmental management, and social responsibility within the minerals industry.
“They should close all existing Minahang Bayan sites and institute programs in the law,” Brown, who also serves as the president and chief executive officer of Apex Mining Co., said.
“The structure is ineffective. Small-scale mining will become worse [if more Minahang Bayan sites will be declared],” he added.