BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines – Small-scale miners have found another haven in parts of the rice terraces in neighboring Ifugao province.
Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat yesterday confirmed reports of small-scale mining in several parts of the terraces and called on authorities to take action on these illegal activities.
Baguilat said there were already earth-moving activities, exploring for possible gold and other mineral deposits, in some areas, including those in the declared heritage sites, which have been classified as endangered.
“The invasion of small-scale mining actually started in (Barangay) Hapao in Hungduan (town), another heritage site,” said Baguilat, one of the prime movers of the “Save the Terraces” movement launched last year.
Besides Hapao, reports said the Banaue villages of Ducligan and Bangaan, also declared heritage sites by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, are also the subject of small-scale mining.
Baguilat called on the provincial mining regulatory board, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the local governments to look into these illegal mining activities before any disaster happens.
“Are we going to give attention to this where there is already a disaster?” he asked.
Although local officials have not issued any mining permits as the villagers have been divided on the issue of mining, Baguilat said diggings have been taking place in some parts of the terraces.
Worse, he said, the small-scale miners have been even utilizing mercury in their illegal operations and other non-scientific methods, further endangering the terraces.
A source said one of the financiers of the small-scale mining is a big-time miner from Didipio village in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.
Some of the small-scale miners, are fellow Ifugaos themselves, Baguilat said.
Baguilat’s disclosure came amid the provincial government-led efforts to rehabilitate the terraces, which have been continuously threatened by soil erosion and giant earthworms.
The deteriorating condition of the terraces, once dubbed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, has been aggravated by the young Ifugaos’ lack of interest in their upkeep.
Sen. Loren Legarda, in her recent visit to Ifugao, also raised concerns about reported mining operations within the 10,000-square-kilometer area of the centuries-old terraces.
“Sustained actions for the preservation of the rice terraces must not be delayed… We must have the political will, financial commitment and community engagement to ensure a long-lasting and sustainable solution (for their conservation),” Legarda said.
Legarda also expressed dismay over the mushrooming of houses made of galvanized iron sheets in villages in the terraces, as these are no longer reminiscent of the traditional Ifugao houses.
Recently, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Abante-Mindanao Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. filed House Resolution 2130 for an inquiry into the alleged failure of some government agencies to release funds for the terraces’ rehabilitation.
Earlier, Ifugao Gov. Eugene Balitang said they needed at least P200 million to restore the terraces. - By Charlie Lagasca