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Solon supports making small-scale miners legal.

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On Thursday, a politician said that making small-scale mining operations lawful would safeguard the environment, encourage their safety, and offer financial incentives.

Luis Raymund Villafuerte, a representative from Camarines Sur, made the statement in support of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s recent directive to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to strengthen its regulatory authority over small-scale mining so that the government can offer miners social protection, skill development, and even financial incentives for their operations.

In response to the President’s recent directive for the DENR to strengthen the regulatory framework for small-scale mining, Environment Secretary Toni (Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga) “must act with dispatch,” according to Villafuerte. The goal is to legalize the largely unregulated and dangerous activities of these small miners while better protecting the environment.

Villafuerte also backed the president’s call for Congress to alter Republic Act 7065, popularly known as the “People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991,” to encourage small-scale mining and include these miners in government assistance, social assistance, and labor protection programs.

After finding that just 49 Minahang Bayan applications for small-scale mining regions had so far been authorized since RA 7076 was passed into law in 1991, he encouraged the DENR Secretary to concentrate on licensing more small-scale miners.

Small-scale mining is defined as operations that “rely mainly on manual labor utilizing simple techniques and methods and do not use explosives or big mining equipment,” according to a law passed in 1991.

Small-scale miners are able to lawfully harvest gold, silver, and chromite in The People’s Small-Scale Mining Areas, also known as Minahang Bayan areas.

He said that by legalizing more Minahang Bayan applications, the DENR and its Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) will be able to more efficiently monitor small-scale mining operations and enhance environmental protection.

Because it is undoubtedly much harder for the DENR and MGB to oversee the activities of small-scale miners if they continue to operate outside Minahang Bayan zones, he added, “the legalization of small-scale mining is clearly a lot better manner of monitoring the operations of these miners.”

“Limiting small-scale miners to conduct their extraction operations only in Minahang Bayan areas will enable the government to effectively monitor if these miners are abiding by the law that bans their use of mercury, which is believed to cause kidney and respiratory ailments, as well as death for people after high exposure to this neurotoxin,” he added.

Marcos bemoaned the inadequacy of mining companies, particularly those engaged in criminal activities, to establish proper safety measures inside the mines during a meeting with DENR officials at Malacaan Palace in November.

“Yung miners are ang kawawa diyan. They are in no way safe. The miners are the victims here, to use the Filipino phrase. They are in no way safe. Many of them pass away),” he remarked.

For mining industry employees, social security and protection must be improved, according to Marcos.

He continued, “We might have access to money, and they might have access to social protection.”

He also encouraged the DENR to deal with obstacles in order to control the small-scale mining sector.

“We want to legalize the small-scale mining enterprises since many of them are unlawful and as a result, the miners have no protection,” Marcos stated.

He said, “We want to strengthen the regulatory environment to enable them to operate lawfully, to provide our miners with help and protection for their safe job, and to do all of this, we want to strengthen the regulatory framework.”

Even though the industry makes up less than 1% of the GDP of the nation, the Marcos administration sees mining as one of the key drivers of the economy’s development.

In the Philippines, between 70 and 80 percent of small-scale miners are thought to be engaged in illicit activity.

Cebuano Cebuano English English Filipino Filipino

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