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Bill seeks to declare Baguio City as mining-free zone

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

Baguio City Rep. Mark Go recently filed a proposed legislation seeking to declare the country’s summer capital as “mining-free” zone.

Go, primary author of House Bill No. 5619, said the measure is “in response to the growing geohazards and environmental threats within the city.”

HB 5619 seeks to ban all mining activities within the city’s territorial jurisdiction, including small-scale mining and quarrying.

Under the measure “all exploration permits, licenses, and small-scale mining contracts shall be immediately revoked.”

Go stressed that Baguio City’s reputation for its natural sceneries and heritage “has become compromised with the mining activities taking a toll on the city’s sustainability and environmental preservation efforts.”

Baguio City has two mineral reservations by virtue of two proclamations by former President Carlos Garcia, excluding them from the Baguio Townsite Reservation: a 380-hectare area in barangays Laokan Apugan, Atok Trail and Kias under Proclamation 414 series of 1957, and 159 hectares of land covering barangays Mines View and Lucban through Proclamation 572 series of 1959.

These two proclamations will be repealed if HB 5619 will be enacted into law.

Go said that small-scale mining and other activities have been prevalent in these areas for decades since they were declared as mining reservations. The reservations have also been heavily populated with inhabitants that they no longer serve their purpose as mining areas.

The lawmaker also added that sinkholes have been reported in these areas, making them geohazard areas that could endanger the lives of the people and harm the city’s ecosystem.

Under the proposed legislation, existing small-scale mining operations shall be given one year to close their operations and undertake necessary rehabilitation and reforestation efforts of affected areas.

Violators will face a penalty of imprisonment between one to six years, and a fine between P500,000 to P5 million pesos.

Go said that the irreparable damage that mining causes to the environment outweighs the potential benefits to its host community.

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