ALTERNATIVE livelihood for small scale miners are now being studied by Benguet officials in the advent of the industry's closure.
Following a directive from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Governor Crescencio Pacalso said there should be a substitute livelihood for the small scale miners in the province before stopping their operations,
Just recently, Environment Sec. Gina Lopez ordered to put an immediate stop to small scale mining (SSM) operations outside prescribed Minahang Bayan areas.
"The national government must first make a solution for the loss of income for these small-scale miners. If they will issue stoppage of the operations of the SSMs, we cannot do anything about that, however if no alternatives can be presented, we cannot stop them from continuing what they do," Pacalso said.
Pacalso added SSM will sooner or later resume their operations without prior notice unless alternative employment can be provided.
"We cannot be certain in this case, kung walang kakainin ang tao they will still have to make a living," he added.
On the other hand Pacalso is giving his support to the approval of the pending application of the various municipalities in Benguet for a Minahang Bayan.
The governor explained while the DENR has not yet identified certain areas in the province as minahang bayan, the department said the province has its own legislative authority to find and recognize areas which will find areas for mining areas.
"On the side of the DENR, the LGU can be the one to find areas which will be proposed to the department for the minahang bayan approval," Pacalso quipped.
As of January 2016, data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR shows there are only five existing minahang bayan in the country including Davao Oriental, Eastern Samar, Quezon, Dinagat Island, and Agusan del Sur.
Industry data also revealed there are 300,000 to 400,000 small-scale miners operating in 40 mineral-rich provinces nationwide, with the majority outside the prescribed minahang bayan areas.
In Benguet, there are at least 25,000 SSM with 66 associations.