ARMED with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) cease and desist order, the Benguet Provincial Police Office initiated crackdown on small-scale mining (SSM) activities in Itogon.
“Oplan Itogon,” set on October 1, states that after target selection of mine sites for closure, the National Task Force Mining Challenge through the Philippine Army, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation will operate against non-compliant mine sites.
The order is anchored for safety of the people and environment.
Senior Inspector Heherson Zambale said four teams have conducted the operations, which started in the afternoon of October 1.
Authorities search areas in Barangay Virac, Luneta and Dampingan.
On October 1, authorities conducted an inventory of tunnels from small-scale mining operations subject to closure.
In the DENR order, all persons present at the target mine site and actively involved in mining activity will be immediately restrained. If resistance is exhibited, the person will physically be restrained and be brought to the police precinct.
Tunnels found to be a hazard will be destroyed using explosives, while entrance of adits in good condition will be closed and blocked. Any equipment and tools found in the area will be confiscated.
A team will also be tasked to prepare filing of cases against the violators or owners of the mining site.
The operation against mining was set after DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered to stop all illegal small-scale mining activities in the Cordillera during his visit in Benguet last week after the massive landslide that hit Barangay Ucab in Itogon on September 15.
Zambale said that in the following days, they will conduct information dissemination for residents to conduct voluntary demolition of the said structures within the determined premises.