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Small miners assail Aquino’s SONA, mining policy

Text and video by KARLOS MANLUPIG

DAVAO CITY— Rogelio Simbajon has labored in the mining tunnels in the gold rush community of Gumayan, a town in Compostela Valley, for more than 30 years.

On Monday, he and about 400 other small-scale miners left the tunnels to participate in protests timed with President Benigno S. Aquino III’s third State of the Nation Address.

Simbajon and fellow miners said the President’s mining order or Executive Order 79, which limits small-scale miners to “minahang bayan” or small parcels of land, in effect favors large-scale mining corporations, including those foreign-owned.

They cited as example the mining tenement in Panganason, Pantukan, where only 81 hectares were declared as “minahang bayan.” But 1,656 hectares had been approved for the mining claim awarded to the National Development Corp.

“Why is the government taking side with these foreigners and big corporations while turning a blind eye on its constituents who are poor and hungry?” Simbajon said.

The small-scale miner also lamented that Aquino’s SONA only mentioned revenue collection from mining and was silent on plans or programs to support and improve the local mining industry.

Expressing the fear of small-scale miners, Simbajon said deputizing government troops to protect big mining companies would worsen tension in the area.

“Sooner or later, these soldiers deployed in our area would be used to evict us from our lands,” he said.