Tent city rises for 10,000 Benguet folk
LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET—At least 10,000 residents from danger zones in Itogon town were expected to occupy 1,000 tents put up at Benguet Sports Complex here as part of preemptive evacuation before Typhoon “Paeng” strikes this weekend.
Gov. Crescensio Pacalso said the provincial government was ready to accommodate people from three communities identified as geohazard zones by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
“There are cracks along the mountains and a settlement atop the landslide,” Pacalso said.
He was referring to the landslide that struck on Sept. 15 at Sitio 070 in the village of Ucab.
The settlement, Pacalso said, “is in danger of falling.”
On Thursday, 49 families from the community called Garrison in Ucab had moved to the tent city setup at the village of Wangal here in preparation for Paeng.
Tents held by metal frames were put up in the gymnasium and at several courts in the sports complex.
A large warehouse had been built at the back of the gymnasium to house food and emergency kits.
Other displaced families will be housed in buildings at Teachers’ Camp and the secretary’s cottage of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Baguio City.
In Tuba town, 276 families from areas vulnerable to landslides were expected to move to three schools there.
The last time La Trinidad put up a tent city was in 2009 when Typhoon “Pepeng” triggered a massive landslide at a community called Little Kibungan in the village of Puguis, killing more than 50 people.
The landslide had its positive effects, though.
The government is now establishing a Minahang Bayan (people’s mine) to legalize pocket mining in the gold-rich town of Itogon, Benguet province.
Three lots, totaling 86 hectares, will be subjected to site validation on Sept. 28 to ascertain if they are within areas that Benguet Corp. had agreed to give up for pocket miners.
Benguet Corp., the oldest mining company in the country, began operations in 1903.
It is one of many mining companies, which hold patents granted by the American colonial government over vast mineral resources in Benguet.
Once cleared, the government will expedite the Minahang Bayan applications of the Loacan Itogon Pocket Miners Association and the Ucab Federation of Small-Scale Miners before these lands are classified as Minahang Bayan by the provincial mining and regulatory board.
But if the areas exceed the patented lots of Benguet Corp., the applicants will be required to undergo the more tedious process of securing a certification of nonoverlap, which will determine whether the prospective Minahang Bayan overlaps with any ancestral domain in the area.
These details were part of an agreement made at a meeting on Wednesday among officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Benguet Corp., small-scale mining associations and Pacalso.
The areas will be the first to be put up as Minahang Bayan in northern Luzon.
Data from the MGB showed there were five Minahang Bayan operating in the provinces of Quezon, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental, Eastern Samar and Dinagat Island.
As of February, MGB had received 23 applications for Minahang Bayan in Benguet.
The move to rush the declaration of a Benguet pocket mine site is a welcome development given the crackdown to be enforced on small-scale miners starting in October, said Lomino Kaniteng, president of Benguet Federation of Small-Scale Miners.
The group has 81 association members (30,000 miners), 53 of them in Itogon.
Twelve mining groups operate in Benguet on the strength of temporary small-scale mining certificates. — KARLSTON LAPNITEN