Stoppage order against Benguet small scale mining, DOMAPMA

ITOGON, Benguet Thousands of individuals in Sitio Dalicno, Barangay Ampucao may experience hunger and poverty following the stoppage order issued against Dontog Manganese Pocket Miners (Domapma) operating here.
Dozens of college students from the said mining community may not be able to enroll due to financial difficulties felt by their parents-a number are pocket miners who were displaced by the closure order. Actually , the ban in the
operations of small scale mining in the province, issued by then DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu 2018 has not been lifted, despite efforts by ssm leaders and local officials appeal to lift said order.

Last Thursday (June 20) , in full force, officials of Benguet Federation of Small Scale Miners, Inc. (BFSSMI) motored to Sitio Dalicno (Ampucao) to demonstrate their all-out support to DOMAPMA and affected families followed by a press conference. ‘We are so concerned on the impact of the stoppage of the livelihood of our brethren in Dalicno, taking into consideration that such displacement and injection of small scale miners will result to hunger, poverty, financial difficulties in terms of health and education and other social problems that may arise,’ BFSSM states.

The BFSSM statement, signed by Norberto Cobaldes, the group, and member of Benguet’s provincial mining
regulatory board, representing ssm, was presented and by read by Rudyrick Pao-eng, president of Garrison Small Scale Miners Association. DOMAPMA, led by its president Nicholas Tibangwa, and several pocket miners led by
Allan Sabiano, and affected individuals-elders, women, youth sectors, among others were also present, and aired their side. They claimed that the area being mined by DOMAPMA is outside the patented claims of BC. Tibangwa and Sabiano appealed to large scale mining companies to give them the opportunity to mine what is left, and stressed its their ancestral lands.

DOMAPMA leaders pointed out that large mining companies like BCI has already extracted a large volume of
minerals to include gold worth billions of pesos. Ampucao Barangay Kagawad Mylene Sabiano stressed that DOMAPMA together with residents of the mining community regularly conduct tree planting and clean up drives in support to government efforts in protecting the environment for future generations. On June 13, Regional Director Fay Apil of MGB CAR, who is also the chairperson of Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) of Benguet
issued a stoppage order against DOMAPMA and executed by Benguet police force.

‘‘This news shocked the members of the BFSSMI all over the province, thus, we left alarmed and in fear that this action is just the beginning of a series of stoppage activities,’ BFSSM states ‘We are appealing to our local government leaders, government agencies, Indigenous People leaders and other stakeholders to find ways and means in looking for a concrete solution to this long overdue problem of the small scale mining sector.’ The BFSSM further said: ‘‘We fervently pray and hope that the law will not be weaponized against us instead it will be humanized so that the marginalized like us small miners will not be “left behind” as we had been told that “those have less in life should have more in law”.

At the sideline, Assistant Secretary Tony ‘Boy’ Tabora, Presidential Adviser for Cordillera Region, vowed to present to President Marcos Jr. the plight of DOMAPMA, after a radio reporter, covering the event ,voluntarily contacted
ASec Tabora and sought for his assistance. Earlier, BFSSM revealed their plans to seek support from concerned government agencies and local government units to come up with win-win solution on their problem. Phoebe Manuel, representing the youth sector, expressed fear that she and her fellow students in their community may not be able to enroll this school year due to financial problems being felt by her parents brought by the stoppage ,and since the latter have no other source of livelihood except working in ssm.

‘We are appealing to MGB to lift the stoppage order, in order that our parents can go back to work for the survival
of our community,’ the teary eyed Manuel said in the vernacular.’ Elders in the community claimed , the area (Ampucao) is a mineral land, not an agricultural, thus, mining is the major source of livelihood by the residents, a number of ssm came from nearby provinces Cagayan and Pangasinan. It was also learned that a woman, also a pocket miner was inside in one of the portals when the stoppage order was executed by local police, and experienced fear and hunger. Residents appealed to MGB,and police authorities to be more considerate by conducting first a dialogue before executing stoppage to safeguard the people especially ssm.

In a telephone interview, RD Apil said: ‘ We are not singling out DOMAPMA, the stoppage order has been there since (2018)…besides our action is a standard operating procedure (SOP) in our bureau.’ Apil added that she is in favor of dialogue among affected parties. In April 9, DOMAPMA through its president wrote BCI appealing to the latter for
a dialogue to settle mining issues. The letter states:’ We are solely relying on our livelihood and some area we are
operating in is 54 cross cut, which is unfortunately, a patented claim of BCI. This has been allowed by the past
administration as a consideration to the members of the community.’

‘Recently, some staff of BCI mentioned to few members of our association that they will plug up the 54 cross area.’
Based on BCI’s reply letter to Domapma (April 11,2024) states: ‘ Firstly, we are not aware of any consent mas your
claim, given by previous/past administrations to any group or association to operate within the stated area. The company do not allow this.’ ‘The company has decided to close the access of your group towards 56/54 crosscut within the mining claims of BCIU…our team will effect the closure of the area on Thursday April 18,2024.’ ‘If you want to integrate your miners to ACMP contractors, you are welcone. However, your miners must register with the
contractor and submit the requirements…’ with reports from

Artemio Dumlao/ABN

Amianan Balita Ngayon