MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is expected to submit to the Office of the President on Tuesday, proposals to tighten regulations on small-scale mining in the country.
The DENR has been tasked to review mining policy in the country on the heels of the landslide that left several people dead and over a dozen others missing in Sitio Panganason, Barangay King-King, Pantukan Compostela Valley.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the death toll stood at 10, with two more bodies recovered.
The discovery came just as retrieval operations were suspended to make way for the evacuation of nearby residents amid the threat of more landslides.
Authorities hoped to complete evacuation efforts of residents in the area at 5 p.m.
Residents agreed to voluntary evacuate after they were advised about the urgency of leaving the landslide-prone area.
Retrieval operations suspended
Speaking on ANC's "On the Scene" Tuesday, Major Jacob Obligado, Battalion Commander, 10th Infantry Division, said that despite the discovery of more fatalities, retrieval operations had to be suspended as the safety of rescuers and residents were primordial.
"Although we recovered (some bodies), we will still suspend operations, we have to consider safety of those in the operation," he said. "We are hoping the weather and the soil will stabilize soon."
Authorities said those who fail to comply with the evacuation area will face arrest.
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo said not only would they ban habitation on areas near the landslide, they would also ban mining in the area.
The local government earlier imposed a 30-day moratorium on mining in Pantukan, pending a review of mining policies in the area.
"Pangkalahatan na ang gagawing inspeksyon at gagawing mas masusing proseso hanggang sa pag-certify yung tunnel ay structurally safe. Habang nirereview, ang polisiya will ensure the operations will be safe."
Loopholes in mining laws
Leo Jasareno, acting Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), said the DENR has identified loopholes in existing laws.
"Dalawa po ang batas na ipinapairal sa small-scale mining ngayon (PD 1889, RA 1776) sa tingin namin isa sa mga batas na ito ay nagiging cause ng problema natin sa small-scale mining," Jasarebno said on ANC's "The Rundown."
"Mas complete and safety measures na ipapatupad natin. Ang mining ay extractive industry, at hindi lahat pwede magmina," he said.
Wholistic approach needed
Robredo said there is a need to institutionalize mechanisms dealing with mining. He added that a wholistic approach is needed to protect miners and prevent untoward incidents.
"The approach should be comprehensive, should address the environment, safety, and institutional mechanisms to ensure enforcement," he said.
"We need to work out oversight arrangements. Hindi lang matapos ibigay sa LGU, ok na. Kailangan i-audit from time to time just to ensure we protect the small-scale miners also."
Robredo admitted the risk and benefits from mining practices also deserve closer scrutiny.
No to total mining ban
But while Pantukan Mayor JC Sarenas agreed with stricter implementation of the rules, he does not approve of a total ban on mining.
"Napakahirap niyan, kung complete. Paano yung mga tao? Ilang libo yan," he said.
"Kung payag ang national (government) iistriktuhan nalang natin ang pahintulot sa magmimina, kailangan i-train yung members na bibigyan ng permit."
Today, authorities hope, measures will be put in place to ensure lives are not put on the line.
"Kailangan ng mas malawak na pag-aaral hindi lang yung aspeto ng pagmimina, kundi yung aspeto ng pagkuha ng trabahador. Ano yung proteksyun niya? Ano yung paraan na pinapakinabangan ng pangkalahatan yung pagmina," Robredo said.