MGB wants separate anti-illegal mining bureau
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is making a pitch for the transformation of its anti-illegal mining task force into a separate bureau, as it bats for more resources, manpower and leverage to fight illegal mining activities.
MGB Director Wilfredo G. Moncano was referring to the National Task Force Mining Challenge (NTFMC), which was established on January 26 last year “to squash illegal mining operators.”
The NTFMC had its so-called baptism of fire when it stopped the illegal mining activities in a Baguio City mine near the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) grounds in February last year, or a month after its creation. Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu led the anti-illegal mining operations.
“Through NTFMC, we aggressively apprehend illegal mining operators, as well as seize, confiscate and dismantle their equipment, including blasting tunnel entrances or portals to the mining sites,” Moncano said in a statement.
The NTFMC was later reestablished as the Environmental Enforcement Task Force, expanding its management of environmental protection laws beyond mining and now including the violation of logging laws, wildlife protection and agricultural policies.
“We are now pushing for the task force to be made into a separate bureau. In this way, it will have more resources, more manpower and more leverage to work with other law enforcement bodies. The environmental laws are there, but we need to be as strict as possible with the enforcement and that means a lot of collaboration from the bottom going up,” Moncano pointed out.
The proposal came in the heels of renewed calls for greater responsibility from mining companies nationwide.
In response, Moncano said the agency is fully committed to fighting environmental abuse caused by illegal mining operators in the Philippines. ‘”There is no room for illegal mining in the Philippines.”
Moncano said the Duterte administration has been working to enhance environmental protection and rehabilitation in the Philippine mining industry in partnership with local law enforcement agencies. It has also crafted new policies further enhancing the protection of the environment and local communities.
Currently, the MGB is also seeking to reduce illegal mining operations by allowing small-scale miners to formally register and join cooperatives. The MGB is an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“We are now seeking to formalize the informal. We’re pushing for them [small-scale miners] to join the Minahang Bayan,” said Engr. Teodorico Sandoval, officer in charge of the MGB Mining Technology Division.
A Minahang Bayan, under the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act, is a cooperative of small-scale mines operating as one unit.
In line with this, the government has waived the income and excise tax of gold from small-scale miners as an incentive for them to stay away from the black market and comply with government regulations.
“We tried taxing before,” mentioned Moncano, referring to the taxation of the sale of gold to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in 2011. “But that resulted in a 99-percent drop in domestic gold purchases.”