DENR opens opportunities for Benguet miners after bunkhouse tragedy

Marje Pelayo   •   September 19, 2018   •   3378

File photo of mining site

 

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said there are around 500 miners from 10 small-scale mining companies in Benguet who are considered legal and have acquired special authority from the agency.

However, over 1,000 miners are considered illegal and the DENR is offering help to encourage them to refrain from illegal mining activities.

The agency has opened some livelihood projects in Itogon, Benguet to help the affected miners.

The programs include the national greening program, the ‘cash for work’ program and a campaign that will employ “Bantay Gubat” officers.

“Kaya it’s really a pity na mawalan ito ng hanap buhay. In order for them naman na ma prevent ang loss of lives naman in the future pwede na siguro if they can find another livelihood in this area sa kanilang mga probinsya na lang,” said DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu.

Still, the DENR said they can only do little as major part of the mining site is privately owned.

“The mining company… it’s their responsibility to guard their property because its patented mining claim and parang titulo na yan na they own the mines and surface,” said Regional Director Faye Hapil of the DENR Mines and Geoscience Bureau.

Because of the geohazard situation in Barangay Ucab, the DENR ordered the demolition of the bunkhouses in the area. However, the miners chose to stay until the tragedy.

The incident prompted the agency to immediately order a stop on all small-scale mining in the area.

“We will reiterate na we have been doing our job here in DENR we issued stoppage orders, the local government were properly informed of the hazardous situation in the said area but sad to say this thing occurred” said Usec. Benny Antiporda of the DENR Solid Waste Management Bureau. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from JL Asayo)

DENR rejects calls to reconsider lifting of moratorium on mining, cites source of fund needed

Marje Pelayo   •   April 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has rejected calls from environmental groups for the agency to review its decision to lift the ban on mining.

In a virtual briefing on Monday (April 19), Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones cited the country’s need for funds especially considering the current COVID-19 crisis.

The decision, stated in Executive Order 130, allows the government to enter into new mining agreements.

“Sa ngayon hindi natin pagtutuunan ng pansin ang ganyan dahil kailangan natin kasi, marami tayong mga problema ngayon sa ating bansa na kailangan natin ng pagkukuhanan ng pondo,” Leones said during Monday’s Laging Handa virtual press briefing.

The official said the mining industry is a significant source of funds in addressing COVID-19.

“At isa ito (mining) sa nakita natin, isa sa mga paraan na para tayo makaahon ng konti, para naman magamit natin mga pondong makukuha natin para din sa…like sa COVID-19 activities, pagbibigay ng ayuda sa mga mamamayan,” he added.

Currently, Leones said there are some 100 mining projects from which the government expects to gain P21 billion in revenues from excise taxes and royalty.

However, it will take up to five years before the government benefits from it.

Leones assured that the government is not just considering gaining from the sector but likewise ensuring a balance between environmental aspects and economic aspects.

Fatal landslide in Brgy. Runruno, N. Vizcaya caused by severe weather, not mining – MGB

Marje Pelayo   •   November 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ruled out mining activity as the cause of the landslide that occurred in Brgy. Runruno, Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya on November 11 during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

In a press release Thursday (November 26), MGB Regional Director Mario Ancheta, “the fatal landslide was triggered by the inclement weather conditions resulting in ground saturation and eventual landslide and not due to small scale mining activity as earlier reported.”

Geologists and technical personnel from MGB Region 2 were sent to conduct a site inspection at the landslide areas where ten individuals were killed, including a two-month old baby and leaving two others injured.

Ancheta added that residents were already recommended for relocation based on a geohazard assessment result conducted by the MGB on September 18, showing that Sitios Bit-ang, Balcony, Compound, and Kinalabasa are highly or critically susceptible to natural hazards.

“The result of the assessment was presented to the community including the residents of sitio Bit-ang, Compound, Balcony, and Kinalabasa,” Ancheta said.

After the incident, the official stressed that “evacuation of the illegal settlers within the landslide prone areas should be strictly implemented.” MNP / Raymund David

200 miners and families locked down inside bunkhouse in Itogon, Benguet

Marje Pelayo   •   October 27, 2020

BENGUET PROVINCE, Philippines — A total of 200 miners and their families have been locked down inside a bunkhouse in a mining community in Itogon, Benguet after a number of miners tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The local government and health officials in the area have agreed to subject all bunkhouse occupants to the same COVID-19 management protocols being applied to positive cases.

According to Governor Melchor Diclas, inside the bunkhouse were also the 44 miners who first contracted the disease. 

“Ang nag-positive dyan ay 40 plus another nadagdagan kaya mga 50. Kaya ang decision diyan dahil walang paglalagyan pa na quarantine facility kaya ginawa natin na yung bunkhouse na ang quarantine facility o isolation facility doon, (Around 40 people initially tested positive then the number increased to more than 50. So we decided, since there is no quarantine facility available, the bunkhouse itself will be their quarantine facility or isolation facility),” the governor said. 

All positive cases are confined on the third and fourth floors of the building while those who are not sick occupy the ground floor and second floor as they await the result of their swab tests.

While they are inside the bunkhouse, the local government is currently working on establishing an isolation facility where the infected families will be transferred.

On Thursday (October 22), another 74 miners were among the 93 new COVID-19 cases reported in the province, the highest number since the outbreak started in the Cordillera region.

Most miners and their families who tested positive for the disease were from crowded mining communities of Stio Luneta in Barangay Loacan, Sitio Sangilo in Poblacion, Sitio Balatoc in Virac and Barangay Ampucao.

Overall, the province has reported a total of 872 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 426 of which recovered and 11 died of the disease. MNP (with reports from Grace Doctolero)

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