BFSSMI president Cobaldez likely to be endorsed by PMRB

LA TRINIDAD, BenguetIn due time, thousands of pocket miners in this province will have a voice in the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB). The PMRB-Benguet, chaired by Fay Apil, Regional Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Cordillera (MGB-CAR), most likely will
endorsed Norberto Cobaldez, president of the Benguet Federation of Small-Scale Miners, Inc. (BFSSMI), to be representative of small-scale miners in the regulatory board.

Cobaldez was the assistant regional director of the Department of Science Technology (DOST-CAR)
before retiring from government service. Based on the (2010) record of Benguet Environment and
Natural Resources Office (BENRO) , the BFSSMI has 97 affiliated small-scale mining associations to include groups from Mankayan, thereby it represent a majority of small-scale miners associations in the province.

In Wednesday’s (May 3) PMRB-Benguet 2nd Quarter Regular Meeting held at the Capitol, the regulatory board urged Cobaldez to submit within a month their federation’s Articles of Incorporation from the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and also list of affiliated SSM associations which are duly registered by local government units and/or by concerned government agencies. “We can do that,” Cobaldez replied.  Also, the regulatory board agreed to conduct a special meeting primarily to address the said issue.

Once settled, the body is expected to make the proper endorsement through a resolution to
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary, which by law the only official who can issue such appointment order. “A representative from small-scale miners to the board is crucial,” Apil stressed, who acknowledged the presence of Cobaldez and other BFSSMI
officials- Angie Sugalan, treasurer,also president of Sugalan Clan SSM; Ricardo Liwayan, business manager, among others during the meeting.

Engr. Lomino Kaniteng, president of BFSSMI was representing Benguet’s smallscale miners in the PMRB before his death a year ago. Recognizing the role of small-scale miners,the body agreed to tackle first the issue regarding- endorsement of Cobaldez as the new Scale-Scale Mining representative for PMRB-Benguet, which supposedly listed as item 4 in the agenda. Actually, it was PMRB member Peter Cosalan ,who raised that said issue be discussed first.

To accommodate Cobaldez, the board suspended its rules through a motion by provincial environment officer Joseph Cervantes, who represented Gov. Melchor Diclas, who was in official
travel, and was duly seconded by Cosalan. In turn, Cobaldez explained the circumstances that led to his endorsement from his federation, replacing the earlier resolution designating Leoncio Na-oy to represent their group in the board. It was learned that several SSM associations affiliated with the federation raised some questions , they claimed that Na-oy who is the current BFSSMI secretary-general is an official of the Baguio City SmallScale Mining Association.

In the PMRB meeting, Cobaldez, however, failed to submit to the body regarding his federation’s latest resolution endorsing him to represent the small-scale miners of the province in the board.
Despite the lack of “papers”, board chairman Apil told Cobaldez to remain in the meeting as “guest” to be informed on the works of the PMRB. “Sir, you are welcome to stay…so that initially you will
come to know the issues and concerns being discussed in the PMRB “ Chairman Apil said.

Later, the body learned that there are two local federations of small-scale miners in Benguet—the BFSSMI and Benguet Federation of Pocket Miners, headed by Manasi Gillies,whose small-scale mining operations are mostly in Mankayan. Chairman Apil told to the body that “I don’t see any
record of Benguet Federation of Pocket Miners… I havent seen Mr. Manasi.” And I was never informed the existence of such association, the PMRB official added.

Primo Agatep/ ABN

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