DESPITE their long time application for a Minahang Bayan, Benguet Governor Crescencio Pacalso is hoping the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to fast track its application.

“As of the moment, our minahang bayan application remains pending,” the governor said.

The Benguet Federation of Small Scale Miners in 2016 filed their request to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) after the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board last year declared 12 areas in two towns of the province as potential “Minahang Bayan” sites.

The 10 proposed Minahang Bayan sites are located in Itogon, distributed in the different barangays, except for barangays Tinongdan and Dalupirip, which are classified as agricultural areas. The Minahang Bayan sites in Tuba are in Barangay Camp 4.

The Minahang Bayan was established in 2015, following the revision of the implementing rules and regulations of the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991.

To operate as Minahang Bayan, small-scale miners must organize themselves into cooperatives and ensure they have the technical capability and financial resources to conform to the structural and taxation requirements of the concession area.

At least five Minahang Bayan were already declared in the country by the MGB which includes Davao Oriental, Eastern Samar, Quezon, Dinagat Island and Agusan del Sur.

However, there are some 300,000 to 400,000 small-scale miners operating in 40 mineral-rich provinces nationwide, with the majority operating outside Minahang Bayan areas. (Roderick Osis)