Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Wednesday issued fresh calls for strict adherence to environmental standards and protection in mining activities to avoid disasters similar to the massive landslide in Pantukan, Compostela Valley that have so far left 13 people dead and a number of small-scale miners missing.
“Environmental laws and regulations are there for a reason: to protect both the environment and the lives of those involved in mining operations. When these are violated, we endanger the environment, the lives of miners, as well as people who live in the surrounding areas,” Ochoa said.
According to Ochoa, all stakeholders in the mining industry should comply with environmental laws, including the public who should become allies of the government in seeing to it that protection and safety standards are observed in mining communities.
“The public must remain vigilant and work with the government in the enforcement of environmental laws. While we understand that small-scale mining can be profitable for some communities, our people must keep in mind that mining is regulated because it must be done properly to ensure the safety of miners and to mitigate its impact on the environment,” Ochoa explained.
The Executive Secretary had previously raised concern over the operations of small-scale miners, whose activities are not under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), but the responsibility of local government units (LGUs).
In a report to Malacanang, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said the landslide took place in Sitio Panganason, Barangay Kingking in Pantukan last April 22 after a slope of a ridge in a small-scale mining site collapsed and buried alive a number of miners, as well as mine tunnels and backyard processing plants.
To date, 13 bodies have been pulled out under the mud and 13 miners have been rescued. The search and retrieval operations are still ongoing to locate the missing as well as the evacuation of residents living near the gold mining site, which has been identified as highly susceptible to landslide as early 2007 by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
Paje reported that small-scale miners had been operating in Pantukan for the past 20 years and that there were close to 1,000 small-scale mining activities in the municipality alone.#