Protection Of Small Miners UrgedPublished by MAC on 2006-12-04
Source: Manila Bulletin
Protection of small miners urged
4th December 2006
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. (PDP-Laban) yesterday reminded the Arroyo government not to neglect the rights of small miners as it opens the exploration and extraction of the abundant gold deposits in Mount Diwalwal in Compostela Valley to big mining corporations.
Pimentel stressed that the small miners want an assurance that their means of livelihood and their welfare will be protected with the entry of mining firms and their foreign partners.
The lone senator from Mindanao said he is taking the cudgels for the small miners amid reports that the government, through the Natural Resources and Mining Corporation, led by its president Artemio Disini, has started negotiations with mining firms and foreign investors who expressed interest in the gold mines around M so called Mount Diwata.
"While we are not against the entry of established mining firms, together with their foreign partners, the government should ensure respect for the rights of small miners which are guaranteed under the Small Miners Act," said Pimentel, the law's principal author.
There are reportedly about 7,000 small miners still actively operating in Mount Diwalwal although there was a time when as many as 40,000 people scattered across the vast gold-rush area digging for the precious metal.
Pimentel said he was told by knowledgeable persons that the gold deposits underneath the slopes and hills of Mount Diwalwal are so rich that they are supposedly enough to pay the foreign debts of the Philippines.
He said what the government must do is to wield an iron hand to effectively control all the gold production of small miners from Mount Diwalwal.
Pimentel said the small miners must be required not only to sell or report their gold output to the government or its authorized agents but to pay the necessary taxes and environmental fees.
He said that after the enactment of the Small Miners Act in the early 1990s, the then Central Bank set up gold buying stations at the foot of Mount Diwalwal.
But these buying stations are no longer operating now.
As a consequence, Pimentel said there is rampant smuggling of the gold output from Mount Diwalwal to Hong Kong, China and other countries.
Pimentel also asked Malacañang and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on the status of an executive order declaring the Mount Diwalwal gold-rush area as a forest reservation supposedly intended to protect the interest of both the government and small miners.