Ordinance is Bukidnon's protection vs abusive miners

Beltran told MindaNews Wednesday this could be a chance to regulate the applicants eyeing mining explorations or operations.

The provincial board passed late last year an ordinance "further protecting the environment in the province" by requiring any person who is engaging in the business of exploration, development, and utilization of mineral and quarry resources to seek accreditation with the SP.

The ordinance requires a number of requirements to be submitted by the applicants to the provincial board. 

The accreditation will be made as a requisite to the issuance of the mining and quarrying permits.

In his sponsorship speech, Beltran said the move is another measure designed to assert the prerogative of the SP as the highest policy making body in the province.

He lamented that the SP has not been included in the consultation process for companies to engage in “extractive businesses” like mining and quarrying even though laws require that approval of any two of the Sangguniang Barangay, Sangguniang Bayan or Panlungsod (for municipalities or cities) should be secured.

Applicants, Beltran pointed out, have been bypassing the provincial board by choosing to consult the barangay and municipal or city councils, whom he said are gullible or "easily bought."

"The extractive business no doubt can cause irreversible damage to our environment," he said. 

The measure, he said, is within the protective mantle of the general welfare clause under Article 16 of the Local Government Code. 

The SP should be the first to be consulted because it is the highest policy making body, he said.

 "The situation has to be corrected," he added.

An inquiry on the condition of the Damay-Kalabugao-Hagpa road in Impasug-ong town launched last week on radio station DXDB exposed that villagers blamed mining for  the destruction of their now impassable road.

Villagers have complained about life made worst because farmers' produce could not be brought to the market and supplies for the villages in the northeastern part of Bukidnon could not be brought in because of the road.

Parents lamented that their children have difficulty going to schools. Even businessmen and visitors have joined the clamor against mining.

Both clergy an
d barangay officials in Kalabugao point to the chromite mining operations in the area using heavy equipment on the road that for a year has not been maintained. 

Impasug-ong municipal administrator Mario Okinlay, former town mayor, has said the culprit is not the town but the provincial engineer's office. They have reportedly waived handling the maintenance of the provincial road. Okinlay said they could no longer afford the work at the prevailing rate.

Provincial engineer Fredolfo Pinto apologized for the condition of the road in an interview with DXDB Monday. He admitted to reporters that for most of 2008, no maintenance work was done on that road.

Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr. said over radio this week that miners should not be blamed but the heavy rains that poured hard in the province last year. "The biggest rainfall here was measured last year," he said.

Zubiri said it is the indigenous people who are benefiting from the small scale operations he has approved. He cited about 20 small scale mining permits he issued for a maximum of 20 hectares each.

The Mining Act of 1995 defines small scale mining as those operating in 20 hectares and below.

For Zubiri, it is the buyers, some of them Koreans and Chinese, who use the heavy trucks, not the Lumad mining operators.

He said the economic condition of the Lumads should be considered if the mines would be closed. "What will they feed themselves?" he asked. 

Zubiri stressed that the impact of small scale mines is "not big". He said he remains unconvinced about allowing large scale mining operations in the province. 

But he said he is considering not to renew the expiring permits of small scale miners. As of February 2008, the governor’s office approved 118 mining permits.

The 75 active permit holders are operating in 739.3 hectares. According to the Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources Office, the permits were issued for silica (203 hectares), chromite small-scale mining (60 has.), phyllite schist or fine-grained rock characterized by prominent glossy sheen (168.8 has.), limestone (148.4 has.), and others.

The provincial government’s tax collection target and actual revenue from small scale mining is only 45 percent or P181,000 of the P400,000 target as of February 2008. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)