STA CRUZ, Zambales: Residents in this town on Thursday vowed to continue their protest against the closure of four mining companies that left many of them without livelihood.
Orlan Mayor, spokeperson of the Coalition of Mine Workers, Families and Communities (CMWFC), said aside from job loses, the scholarships of students and other social development programs supported by the companies are in danger of being pulled out if the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will not lift the suspension of the mining firms soon.
Region 3 Director Danilo Uykieng, officer in charge of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau under the DENR, ordered the suspension Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. last month after they failed to pass a regulatory evaluation of their operations.
Mayor said the suspension of these companies has affected more than 3,000 workers who rely on mining jobs to support their families.
Zambales, which is rich in nickel and chromite, has attracted large-scale mining companies.
Mayor said the prospects of finding jobs for the displaced workers are also dim since the only other source of livelihood in the province is farming.
“Malaking tulong ang trabaho namin sa minahan, wala naman ibang trabaho dito sa probinsiya maliban dyan. Pwede naman mag saka pero seasonal lang naman yun [Working at the mine is a big help, there is no other job in this province aside from that. We can farm but it is just seasonal],” explained Mayor.
He added: “Paano na yung pamilya nung libong mangagawa ng minahan kung patuloy kaming walang trabaho? [What will happen to the thousands of workers if we continue to be jobless?]”.
On Monday, thousands of protesters, including students, farmers and others sectors which the companies have been supporting, trooped to the provincial capitol to seek an audience with Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. to air their grievances.
Ebdane, for his part, promised to endorse the workers’ plea to the DENR for the lifting of the suspension order.
Ebdane told the protesters that the province needs the mining industry for economic growth and at the same time, he also urged the mining companies to operate responsibly.
Ebdane said he will veto an ordinance should the Sangguniang Panlalawigan pass one declaring Zambales as mining free.