DENR: Creation of Minahang Bayan sites to generate jobs in countryside | Inquirer Business
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DENR: Creation of Minahang Bayan sites to generate jobs in countryside

By: - Reporter / @kocampoINQ
/ 04:16 PM May 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is fast-tracking the establishment of Minahang Bayan areas all over the country amid the growing number of unemployed Filipinos.

Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones, in an interview with Inquirer, said that creating Minahang Bayan sites will generate more jobs in the countryside and fuel economic growth.

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As of last week, there are 39 Minahang Bayan areas operating in the country from 20 in 2018. This is still far from the agency’s target of declaring 150 Minahang Bayan areas by next year.

The Minahang Bayan program, primarily aimed at regulating the small-scale mining industry, allows pocket miners to legally operate under DENR’s guidelines.

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“Our crackdown on illegal miners continues as we also put up more Minahang Bayan areas,” said Leones. “This is to ensure that mining will be concentrated in one area where the DENR can regulate and monitor small-scale operations.”

Illegal small-scale miners are usually exposed to health hazards due to rudimentary practices and contribute greatly to environmental degradation.

Despite the risks, it remains to be an attractive livelihood since extracting mineral ores is more profitable compared to other rural jobs like farming or working in construction.

Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) showed that there are currently nine Minahang Bayan areas in Luzon, three in Visayas, and 27 in Mindanao.

The largest Minahang Bayan site, sprawling over 1,175 hectares, can be found in Dinagat Island where pocket miners extract chromite. Most of the Minahang Areas, however, are for mining gold.

MGB director Wilfredo Moncano said they are also working with the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Environment Program to stop the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

The use of mercury, which is common in the northern part of the country, exposes miners to toxics that could affect the nervous, immune, and digestive systems. Leones said they are looking at cyanide as an alternative to mercury, also known as “quick silver.”

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The economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic prompted the Duterte administration to rejuvenate the mining industry. The ban on the use of open-pit is expected to be lifted this week.

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TAGS: DENR, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Minahang Bayan, mining, Usec. Leones
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