ALMOST a year after the Itogon tragedy, more minahang bayan (MB) applications are on the brink of being approved.
Fay Apil, Mines and Geosciences Bureau–Cordillera Administrative Region (MGB–CAR) director, said there are over a dozen applications pending in the entire region.
Apil said the first MB application has been approved in Itogon, Benguet between the government and the Loacan Itogon Pocket Miners Association (LIPMA) with its small-scale mining contract awarded.
The MGB official added there are now nine applications in the province of Apayao alone, specifically at the municipalities of Calanasan and Conner while in Mountain Province, there is a lone application in the tourist town of Sagada with papers and clearances pending and another site in Kalinga with the applicant in the process of completing the requirements.
Apil said she hopes to see more MB areas declared in the coming months.
A small-scale mining contract refers to the co-production, joint venture between the local government unit and the small-scale mining contractor for the small-scale utilization of a plot of mineral land provided an act creating a peoples small-scale mining program.
The contracts have been pending for decades and were only fast tracked when Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu halted the trade, leaving miners anxious to get their livelihood back.
Last year, Cimatu dialoged with over 4,000 small-scale miners from Benguet affected by Oplan Itogon which aimed for a mining crackdown until safety and legality of small-scale mining is established for the entire region.
Talks for the minahang bayan started anew when former President Benigno Aquino signed into law the New Mining Law Executive Order 79 containing mining regulations and designating 80 hectares for each registered group, applications for Minahang Bayan have been on since 2004 but have not been approved.
At the turn of the administration, when DENR Secretary Gina Lopez was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte, she announced a halt in small-scale mining in country, but was never implemented until Typhoon Ompong brought death and destruction to the mine sites in Benguet.