Sec. Lopez to Alleviate Negros Mining Areas

Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez challenged the locals of Sipalay City in Negros Occidental and Basay town in Negros Oriental to take part in protecting the environment while gaining from it.

From left, former Usec. Leo Jasareno, PENRO Neg. Occ. head Edgardo Rostata, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Mayor Oscar Montilla Jr. upon the landing of Sec. Gina Lopez in Sipalay City.*(NIR SCIS photo)

In her visit in two former mining sites in Negros Island, Lopez expressed her dismay on the effects that open pit mining has left the communities.

Lopez offered the mining communities better environmental and alternative activities supporting ecotourism.

Among these livelihood programs are the rehabilitation of forest areas, bamboo plantation and mangrove seedling production.

The mining industry forum is part of the nationwide comprehensive consultation and engagement with communities affected by the mining audit recently conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources .

In the forum, she assured the locals to transition well from being mining workers or mining communities to an empowered social entrepreneur or enterprise, driven by ecosystems principles and social justice.

“The women should take part in rebuilding their communities,” she said, challenging them to use their income to invest in more facilities with the future of their children in mind.

Lopez presented success stories from her former occupation leading a non-profit, non-government foundation which helped communities to earn more through environment-centered livelihood.

SIPALAY MAYOR. “It was good for the secretary to come here and see the situation herself. After four separate incidents of spillage, the surrounding area was rendered barren. After we became a city, we spent for the rehabilitation of the farmland,” said Sipalay Mayor Oscar Montilla Jr.

Montilla said when Maricalum Mining Corporation vacated, the communities in the area were left with massive job losses, ceased electric and water supply.

The LGU has been struggling with employing these laborers, some being hired on a weekly job order basis through tourism, he said.

“There’s a need for jobs. For now we have no other way in employing the jobless but through tourism. We cannot cope with the volume of laborers,” he added.

Lopez said the mining company should be held responsible for failing to provide care and maintenance program after leaving the mining site.

“The city landscape is beautiful, but upon seeing the huge open pit, it looked a scene from hell and it’s going to be there for eternity,” she said, adding that the rehabilitation from the four spillages that caused massive damage was paid by the taxpayers’ money.

STUDY. In a study conducted by Silliman University, the open-pit mine left by CDCP Mining Corporation in Basay town, it emits copper and heavy metals toxicity 500 times than the normal count, she said.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau has been writing mining firms to conduct care and maintenance programs after unearthing minerals from the communities but mostly had sent a reply to no avail.

Lopez said this has compelled the agency “to take a more serious action.”

With due process, a firm proven to have violated their agreement with the local government will be penalized including the cancellation of mineral production sharing agreement.

The Mining sites visited by the secretary and former Environment Undersecretary Leo Jasareno and former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo among the members of the party.

“It’s the government’s job to stop this kind of atrocity. It is a crime against the Filipino people and to continue to allow this kind of atrocity to happen is an extreme shirking of our responsibility as government,” Lopez also said.*(DENR NIR-SCIS)


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