ENVIRONMENT Secretary Regina Paz Lopez on Tuesday reaffirmed her commitment to provide local mine workers displaced by a crackdown on illegal and irresponsible mining operations with alternative livelihood.
In response to growing concerns about a series of shutdowns of mining companies, Lopez said the DENR would tap displaced workers to the implement the National Greening Program (NGP).
Providing alternative livelihood is part of the DENR’s move to expand its role beyond regulation to be more development-driven by using its resources for sustainable development.
“Obviously, communities stay long after mining operations close down. The people are not given sustainable livelihoods that outlive mining,” Lopez said.
The NGP is geared toward planting 1.6 million hectares with trees by the end of 2016. The rehabilitation initiative doubles as an anti-poverty measure due to its cash-for-work component.
In November last year, then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd issued an executive order creating the “Expanded NGP” to reforest “all remaining unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands” from 2016 to 2028.
Lopez noted the minerals development industry, one of the most capital-intensive industries in the country, employs only 250,000 workers or about 0.6 percent of the total labor force.
There are 40 large-scale metallic mines and 65 non-metallic mines in the Philippines. On the other hand, about 300,000 individuals are into small-scale mining, a mining activity considered by the government as illegal outside the Minahang Bayan area.
Eight mining companies have been shut down by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau for failing to comply with regulatory requirements. On Monday, Lopez stopped all small-scale mining activities outside the Minahang Bayan.
Lopez said the DENR is eyeing other revenue streams as an alternative to mining, such as developing ecotourism spots throughout the country. She cited the La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City and Palawan as models.
“These are superb examples of ecotourism following the basic concept of preserving the country’s natural resources without extraction while generating revenues that can possibly beat the 1 percent of GDP the mining industry is giving the country,” she said.