Camarines Sur Representative LRay Villafuerte is in favor of legalizing the operations of small-scale miners.
“The legalization of small-scale mining is definitely a lot better way of monitoring the operations of these miners, because it certainly is far more difficult for the DENR and MGB to track the activities of small-scale miners if they continue operating outside Minahang Bayan areas,” Villafuerte said.
The veteran legislator said this following the order made by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to strengthen its regulatory powers on small-scale mining.
“Environment Secretary Toni (Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga) must act with dispatch on the President’s recent directive.”
“Environment Secretary Toni (Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga) must act with dispatch on the President’s recent directive for the DENR to strengthen the regulatory framework for small-scale mining with the end view of legalizing the preponderantly unsupervised and perilous activities of these small miners while better protecting the environment,” the seasoned lawmaker stressed.
Marcos has urged Congress to amend Republic Act 7065, or the “People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991”.
Villafuerte agreed with the proposal of Marcos to incentivize small-scale mining and extend social assistance, labor protection and government assistance programs to these miners.
“Limiting small-scale miners to do their extraction activities only in Minahang Bayan areas will enable the government to effectively monitor if these miners are abiding by the law.”
“Limiting small-scale miners to do their extraction activities 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 respiratory and kidney diseases or even death for people following their high exposures to this neurotoxin,” he explained.
From the time RA 7076 was signed into law in 1991, Villafuerte discovered that only 49 Minahang Bayan applications for small-scale mining areas have been approved.
It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of small-scale miners in the Philippines operate illegally.