UPON MGB'S MINING CESSATION ORDER: Miners cry for subsistence

AFFECTED subsistence miners in Camarines Norte rally in front of Camarines Norte Capitol Building to ask the lifting of cease and desist order from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau or hasten the approval of the Minahang Bayan permit to allow them to undertake small-scale mining activities. Juan Escandor Jr.

By Juan Escandor Jr. DAET, Camarines Norte --- On Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), about 3,000 subsistence miners held a rally in front of the Capitol building here as they cried for source of livelihood after the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued “cease and desist order (CDO)” against illegal mining activities in the 12 towns of Camarines Norte province. Officials of the towns of Jose Panganiban and Paracale told the Bicol Mail that a total of about 11,000 families directly depending on small-scale mining activities have lost their livelihood with the enforcement of the CDO. “The action of the director of the MGB has displaced economically subsistence miners in seven villages in Jose Panganiban that are easily translated to 6,000 families or about 30,000 individuals who are affected,” according to Sarah Marie P. Aviado, municipal environment and natural resources officer of Jose Panganiban. In the town of Paracale, the number of subsistence miners and their families affected by the CDO reached 5,000, revealed Gil B. Salen, municipal planning and development coordinator. Wilfredo Sapalaran, 54, affected subsistence miner, said he started mining in 1980 in Barangay Luklukan in Panganiban town, and made do to raise his seven children even though his eldest is 32 years old and the youngest is eight years old. Sapalaran said his spouse is a plain housewife while two of his children are already married so that four of his children are still dependent while one child is already working and helps the family. “I call on the government to allow us continue our mining activities because we do not destroy the environment unlike the large-scale mining that strips mountains of vegetation,” he said pointing to the verdant terrain where they mine by making tunnel in the mountain. But Guillermo Molina, MGB Bicol director, explained the CDO he issued against illegal mining activities on January 10, this year, was based on the Executive Order 79 and the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 7076 or the Small-Scale Mining Act. Molina said he the CDO he issued was not the first one because two previous MGB directors had issued the same years back. “The issuance of the CDO shows that we are doing activities not in line with the laws. I decided to enforce the CDO all over the province, especially in the towns where there are illegal mining activities like Paracale, Panganiban and Labo,” he said. Molina said he had forwarded the directive he issued against illegal mining activities to the local governments of the province, municipal and barangay in Camarines Norte and that he had deputized last week the municipal police of Labo and Panganiban while Paracale municipal police was deputized earlier. Maria Linda Yasis, 46, said the primary livelihood of her family is through subsistence mining so that if the government continues to prevent them from mining it is tantamount to “burying their family in the grave.” “We don’t even have steady income with the only livelihood (subsistence mining). When there is no gold we suffer, if we strike one our family is provided and we can send our kids to school,” Yasis said. She said through mining her eldest child was able to finish Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and her two high school students and four children are still in the elementary. Yasis said there are still six children who have to finish school. Gov. Edgardo A. Tallado said he sympathized with the subsistence miners who lost their livelihood since the CDO was enforced by the MGB without giving them alternative livelihood. “There were pending application at the MGB that won’t give them permits,” Tallado said. Molina said the permit for subsistence miners to get mining permit is through the Minahang Bayan which applications had been pending approval since 2010 and still under process. He said the biggest problem confronting the approval of the Minahang Bayan is the consent from mineral claimants under it which are usually the large-scale mining corporations with approved mineral claims in Camarines Norte. Molina said only one large-scale mining corporation, the Golden River, has consented to give their claim under the Minahang Bayan applied for in Paracale town. Serafin Dasco, president of the Samahan ng Magkakabod ng Paracale (Association of Subsistence Miners in Paracale), retorted that if the problem is the consent from mineral claimants, there must be period of prescription of the mineral claims once it is not used for a long period. Molina said there is prescription which is five years and after which the MGB can recommend for cancellation of the mineral claims but he said there are instances when the mineral claims cannot be cancelled because of pending review if it is under process renewal. He said all over the Philippines only seven Minahang Bayan had been approved 10 years after the Small-Scale Mining Act had been implemented. Molina said it will only be the secretary of the DENR who can reverse the CDO against small-scale mining in Camarines Norte or interested group can ask the court to grant them temporary restraining order while the processing of the Minahang Bayan is underway.