The Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (RLECC) is set to reactivate it’s mining task force to ensure prevention of mining related disasters similar to what happened in Itogon, Benguet last year.
Police Brigadier General Israel Ephraim Dickson, Police Regional Office Cordillera (PRO-COR) director who also chairs the committee, said the reactivation is in preparation for the coming typhoon season starting this June.
“The reactivation by RLECC of the mining task force is to ensure no incident related to indiscriminate illegal mining operations along our rivers and mountains would occur. This is also to determine the areas where such operations occur to prevent them from operating,” Dickson said.
In October last year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) spearheaded the two-day “Operation Itogon” to ensure all small-scale mining (SSM) activities in Itogon municipality are stopped with the creation of the DENR National Task Force – Mining Challenge (NTFMC).
This is to ensure the safety of miners and residents of the area and to avoid any untoward incident such as the killer landslides that left more than 50 dead in Itogon at the height of Typhoon Ompong last year.
“I think that if necessary, the Philippine National Police will again have to implement forced evacuation in areas that would be identified as risk areas since lives would be at stake. If residents within an area identified under risk area would not follow our warnings and education, then we would have to apply force eviction procedures,” Dickson said.
In its two day operation in 2018 following Ompong, DENR was able to shutdown 539 mine tunnels and cordoned 335 ball mills while 64 Carbon in pulp/carbon in leach, 170 leach pad and 33 kilograms of cyanide were seized.
NTFMC Operation Itogon deployed more than 300 personnel last year led by the DENR with its attached agencies, the Philippine Army, Police Regional Office Cordillera, Benguet Provincial Police Office and the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco).
The task force was fielded to at least nine clustered areas where there were initial inventory of SSM operation and processing activities namely Sitio Bacong, Ambuklao Road, Barangay Gumatdang, Hartwell Turning Point and Balatoc Area, Loacan and Antamok, Philex Road, Baguio-Itogon Road, and Alphaville in Tuding.
“As part of our job, we will be ready for any eventuality specially this typhoon season since we are an extension of other government agencies where we can be deputized and apply our strengths and training to respond to any eventuality,” Dickson added.