‘Minahang Bayan’ row in Benguet mining district worsens

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ITOGON, BENGUET – Row over the “Minahang Bayan” in the Itogon mining district has worsened as Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan wants the mining giant Benguet Corporation (BC) out from their town after it opposed the mining applications by small scale miners from the Benguet Federation of Small-Scale Miners (BFSSM).

Palangdan, a lawyer said, he will consolidate the Itogon council for a united position “for the people of Itogon” regarding BC’s actions, insisting that those areas being claimed by the mining firm are their properties. “The fact that it was declared as ancestral land, they should leave. We will demand them to go out,” he added.

BC is insisting that more than 90 percent of those areas where small scale miners want to mine “are within the company’s patented claims and tenements”.

BC is seeking the Benguet Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (BPMRB) to disapprove the Minahang Bayan application bantering that the application is within private properties covered by patended mineral lands and valid patentable mineral lands under its name located at Luacan, Antamok, Acupan, Virac, Tuding, Ucab, Gumatdang and Ampucao in this town.

BC stressed that the applications of small scale miners were filed to the PMRB without their consent and these transgress either the whole or portions of BC’s mineral lands and patentable mineral lands, particularly those covered by Parcel, 1, Parcel 2, Parcel 3 and Parcel 8.

The mining giant further claimed that the area covered by Parcel 1 of the small scale miners’ application consisting of 200 hectares is entirely within the patented and patentable mineral lands of BC and that the affected mining patents are owned by Philex Mining Corporation which under royalty agreement with them.

BC further claimed that of the 1,100 hectares covered by Parcel 2, BC claims to own 745 hectares while of the 1,600 hectares covered by Parcel 3 of the application, 967 are its mineral lands.

Of the 440 hectares covered by Parcel 8 of the Minahang Bayan application, BC asserted it owns 157 hectares.

Most of the applied areas covers almost 90 percent of the total patented and patentable mineral lands of BC located in the mining communities of Itogon wherein the company was able to acquire legal rights and interests over its mining properties,  the mining giant further claimed.

Mayor Palangdan however said BC’s opposition to the applications pose a huge problem as 80 percent of the people of his hometown depend on small-scale mining.

The town executive also said that when they visited the proposed Minahang Bayan sites, BC was very much willing to share their mining rights over the areas to small scale miners.

The proposed sites are located in the barangays of Ampucao, Gumatdang, Loacan, Poblacion, Tuding, Virac and Ucab, which were validated by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Cordillera as proposed sites for Minahang Bayan.

A total of 39 small-scale mining associations operating within the area were inventoried. ACE ALEGRE / ABN