Benguet pocket miners sue DENR

Northern Dispatch

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LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET — The Benguet Federation of Small-scale Miners, Inc (BFSSMI) filed a complaint against Environment Secretary Ramon Paje for allegedly exceeding his authority on issuing the revised implementing rules and regulations (RIRR) for the People’s Small-scale Mining Act, saying these run counter to the law itself and the Constitution.

“The RIRR is ultra vires and was issued beyond the limits of the authority of the defendant secretary,” said the complaint filed at the Benguet Regional Trial Court. The pocket miners were represented by Engineer Lomino Kaniteng.

The BFSSMI asked for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction on the implementation of Administrative Order No. 2015-03, the RIRR to Republic Act 7076. Paje issued the RIRR on March 16.

The group also asked the court to scrap sections 10, 13, 16, and 21 of the RIRR. The complainants seek an injunction to prevent the “impending damage” that the RIRR implementation would cause on the pocket miners’ livelihood.

“Should the assailed provisions of the revised implementing rules and regulations be implemented, it is not only the livelihood of the small-scale miners which would be affected or at stake, but likewise, their liberty,” the complaint stated.

The complaint said Section 10 of the RIRR imposes exorbitant application fees, in violation of Section 9 of RA 7076, which states that “Applications for a contract shall be subject to reasonable fee(s) to be paid to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office having jurisdiction over the area.”

“The application fee prescribed in the RIRR setting the amounts of P10,000 for non-metallic minerals, and P20,000 for gold, silver and/or chromite are not only excessive and unreasonable, but tends not to regulate the trade of small-scale miners but hampers or prohibits it,” the complaint stated.

This violates Section 2, Article XII of Constitution which recognizes small-scale mining as a formal sector of the mining industry, the complaint said.

The complaint pointed out that Section 13 of the RIRR limits the small-scale mining contract to a maximum of six years and the minerals to be extracted, which runs counter to Section 13 of RA 7076, which does not set limits to the length of contract or kinds of minerals.

“This is a clear encroachment on the legislative powers which belongs to Congress,” the complaint said.

The groups said that Section 16 of the RIRR increased the processor’s fee from P20,000 to P50,000 and revised the simple procedure in the application for processor’s permit. According to the complaint, Section 16 will not “promote, develop, protect and rationalize viable small-scale mining activities in order to generate employment opportunities,” as RA 7076 envisions but would rather threaten the welfare and livelihood of pocket miners.

The complaint added that the increase in fee and additional requirements for a processor’s permit were adopted without consultation with the pocket miners. It further said that ordinary pocket miners could not comply with the new requirements because these are “tailored-fit to big-scale mining operation”.

The complaint also questioned Section 21 of the RIRR that provides for the inclusion of two representatives from the large-scale mining sector to the Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board.

“The inclusion of a representative from the large-scale mining is ironical.”

The complaint said the RIRR was supposed to regulate small-scale mining in relation to RA 7076 which has no reference (to) or mention of large-scale mining. Northern Dispatch Reposted by

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