SouthCot forms task force vs ‘banlas’

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/01 August) – The provincial government of South Cotabato has created a special task force that will lead the crackdown against the rampant illegal “banlas” or sluice mining activities in the province.
Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. recently issued Executive Order No. 10 creating the Provincial Anti-Banlas Intelligence and Investigation Task Force, in a bid to put an end to the destructive mining activity.
“The task force is mandated to conduct in-depth investigation, monitoring, raids, apprehensions and other necessary actions against all those behind the banlas mining operations,” the governor said.
Banlas mining, which is considered as a highly-destructive mining method, involves the pouring of large amounts of water using high-pressure water jets on a mountain’s surface to extract the rocks containing the gold ore, and then pan them with mercury.
The use of the illegal mining method, which was first uncovered in T’boli, has increased in the last several years in several small-scale mining areas in Tampakan town.
Reports said the sluice mining operations in Tampakan are centered in Kampo Kilot of Barangay Pulabato, where several hectares of a mountain in the area was already destroyed based on an aerial survey earlier conducted by the provincial government of South Cotabato.
The anti-banlas task force is chaired by the governor and with the regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Mines and Geosciences Bureau acting as vice-chairperson.
Designated as members were the Department of Interior and Local Government-South Cotabato, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), South Cotabato police’s intelligence unit and public safety company, Armed Forces of the Philippines-Provincial Intelligence Service Unit and the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau in Region 12.
The Provincial Environment Management Office of South Cotabato was assigned as the task force’s secretariat.
To ensure the efficient implementation of its mandates, the task force’s members were required to submit reports of plans and undertakings to the chair or the governor through the secretariat as well as make the necessary inter-agency coordination with other members.
“This time, we’re tapping the services of the NBI and other intelligence units to help us identify and apprehend these banlas miners, especially their financiers,” Pingoy said.
The governor said they earlier received reports that the illegal mining activities continued to thrive in the province due to alleged backing from policemen and some local politicians.
“We don’t have confirmations on these yet but we’re hoping to eventually unmask all those involved through the task force,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)