Itogon mayor denies allowing small-scale mining in favor of wife's business

Angel Movido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 19 2018 07:22 PM | Updated as of Sep 20 2018 04:06 PM

Rescuers retrieve one of the bodies buried under tons of mud in Barangay Ucab, Itogon Benguet on September 17, 2018. At least 43 people were killed in a landslide triggered by Typhoon Ompong, while search operations continue for dozens believed to be under the mud. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

ITOGON, Benguet- Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan on Wednesday denied he tolerated small-scale mining in his municipality in favor of his wife's business of buying gold.

This amid continuing search operations for those buried in a mine following a landslide in the mountain town triggered by Typhoon Ompong, which hit northern Luzon over the weekend. 

Palangdan admitted his wife also bought from local small-scale miners. He explained that the business is legal, as his wife is accredited by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the central bank.

"More or less mayroon akong P4-million tax credit nung nagba-buy and sell pa kami... that's on record po," he said.

(More or less I have a P4-million tax credit when we used to buy and sell...That's on record.)

Authorities are now investigating the small-scale mining industry in Itogon, following the massive landslide that left at least 43 people dead and dozens still missing. 

Palangdan added that the BIR and the National Bureau of Investigation wrote him a letter to advise constituents to only sell gold to the central bank and accredited buyers.

"I went around the municipality that they should sell to central bank. Kahit hindi ibenta sa misis ko basta ibenta sa accredited buyers dito...para sigurado na mapunta sa central bank," he said.

(Even if they don't sell to my wife, that they sell to accredited buyers here to ensure that it goes to the central bank.)

The mayor, a lawyer, added that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should be arresting all those involved in illegal mining. He said most of the miners there were from Ifugao and remain unregistered in the business of mining.

"Nandun na nga encouraging kalakaran dito (They were encouraging business here). It's a business and if you register, it will be legalized as long as you are following the law... 'yung karamihan wala naman (most are not registered)," Palangdan clarified as he pointed out his wife was not encouraging illegal mining.

"Hulihin na, 'yun ang sinabi ng NBI at BIR (Arrest them, that's what the NBI and BIR said) because that is tax evasion, they have a criminal liability, economic sabotage," he added.

When asked why small-scale miners have proliferated in the municipality, Palangdan said: "Di ko alam saan napupunta gold natin baka diretso sa China."

(I don't know where our gold goes, maybe directly to China.)

The mayor also sought an investigation on Benguet Corporation even amid the company's claims that they are no longer involved in small-scale mining in the area.