LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu on Monday ordered the suspension of all small-scale mining operations in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) following a landslide that killed 34 people in a mining site in Itogon, Benguet province.
Cimatu announced this in a press conference moderated by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque at the Benguet capitol building.
“In view of this current situation in CAR, to prevent further danger in lives of small-scale miners, I officially ordered the cease and desist of all illegal small-scale mining operations in the whole of CAR,” Cimatu said.
“We asked the small-scale miners to cooperate and stop all their small-scale mining activities here,” he added.
Cimatu said government troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police will be sent to CAR “to effect this stoppage of all mining activities especially here in Itogon”.
Last February, Cimatu said he called on illegal small miners in Benguet to organize themselves as “Minahang Bayan” but “it did not happen”.
“At present, their existing applications for Minahang Bayan in some areas of the region while we wait for the approval and proclamation of these applications, we asked small-scale miners to cooperate and stop all small mining activities here,” Cimatu said.
Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan said the affected mining site has also been closed but the corporation still allowed small-scale miners to operate.
During the Palace press briefing, both Roque and Cimatu assured that the government will not stop the search and rescue efforts until all the missing persons are accounted for.
“We will not stop until we recover all of them,” Cimatu said.
Roque announced that a total of 54 people were reported dead in CAR while 49, including 42 in the Itogon mining site, are still missing.
“Patuloy ang (We will continue) search and rescue efforts particularly in Itogon. Hindi tayo titigil hanggang hindi naa-account ang lahat (We will not stop until everyone is accounted for),” Roque assured.
Both officials said the government have prepared contingency measures to help thousands of miners who will be affected by the cease and desist order.
Roque said affected miners will be given priority under the immediate cash for work program of the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, as well as livelihood training program of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
He said local government units in the affected areas will also provide livelihood assistance to the affected miners and their families.
Cimatu urged the miners from Ifugao to go back for the meantime in their respective areas, where national and local governments will provide them with livelihood opportunities.
Due to the Itogon mining site incident, Cimatu said the government will be strict in the approval of application for “Minahan ng Bayan”.
“What happened here is a wake-up call for all of us,” Cimatu said.
Roque said President Rodrigo R. Duterte is scheduled to visit on Monday afternoon the victims of Ompong, particularly the families of the miners who perished in the landslides. Liza Agoot and Jelly Musico/PNA-northboundasia.com