Itogon mayor orders halt to mining operations

Published November 6, 2020, 1:53 PM

by Zaldy Comanda

ITOGON,Benguet — Mayor Victor Palangdan signed Executive Order No.20 on Wednesday, November 4, ordering the stoppage of all mining operations and activities following the surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the municipality.

Palangdan said there has been a sudden surge of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the thickly populated mining areas, particularly in Barangays Virac,Poblacion and Ampucao and as of Nov.3, the barangays registered a total of  425 confirmed cases.

The surveillance made by Itogon Municipal Health Office  revealed that most of the confirmed COVID-19 cases are found in mining areas under Benguet Corporation in Vurac, Itogon-Suyoc Resources Inc. in Poblacion, and Philex Mining Corporation in Ampucao.

He said contact tracing and the swab testing are still ongoing in the mining areas in order to contain and control the possible transmission of the virus in other parts of the municipality.

The EO said, all the communities with clusters of cases were already placed under lockdown in the three barangays and the lockdown is expected to be maintained until the situation stabilizes.

Palangdan said the order shall remain in effect while contact tracing and the corresponding swab testing are being conducted, and until the  threat of  COVID-19 transmission is contained.

Governor Melchor Diclas issued a clarificatory statement that the request for the temporary slowdown of mass testing is not for the whole province of Benguet, but only in selected areas where the clustering of cases was recorded, particularly in the mining areas.

The swab testing of close contacts of confirmed cases, especially those who are symptomatic,continues.

Diclas said due to the lack of isolation facilities following the surge of COVID-19) in the mining areas, he requested to delay  the mass testing to be conducted by the National Task Force Against COVID-19 through the efforts of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC).

He said the present isolation facilities are no longer enough and they need to look for more isolation facilities to accommodate patients before the conduct of mass testing because the bed capacity in the province is not enough following the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Diclas said the movement of individuals in these areas is already restricted, and since they are “considered as positive already,” he appealed for testing to be suspended for 10 days.

The NTFA on Emerging Infectious Disease is conducting the tests in the BLISTT area.