THE government will earmark P4-billion worth of investment that is expected to benefit 30,000 households, which could be affected by the mine closure in three provinces, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Tuesday.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez assured that her order to close mining projects would not result in job losses that could adversely affect the lives of residents dependent on mining for their livelihood.
"It is incumbent upon us in government to provide alternatives for our citizens who are affected by our policies. We want to protect the environment, and want to show that we can save lives and provide livelihood at the same time," said Lopez.
According to Lopez, the DENR together with ten other government line agencies are prepared to invest close to P4 billion to provide employment opportunities for 25,000 to 30,000 households in the provinces of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Dinagat Islands.
The other agencies include the Department of Labor and Employment, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Science and Technology, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Coconut Authority, the Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
"We have a very good, very doable plan that will provide employment in the short and long term, jobs that do not involve mining activities that will damage our much-needed watersheds," explained the DENR chief.
Short-term employment opportunities include reforestation, desilting of agricultural land, napier and bamboo farming, livestock raising, and biochar manufacturing.
Biochar is a powerful soil enhancer that holds carbon and makes soils more fertile. It can boost food security, discourage deforestation and preserve cropland diversity. Biochar systems can reverse soil degradation and create sustainable food and fuel production in areas with severely depleted soils, scarce organic resources, and inadequate water and chemical fertilizer supplies.
Medium and long-term jobs, on the other hand, will be generated by the manufacture of charcoal briquettes, ecotourism activities, infrastructure, and agro-post harvest processing.
Lopez stressed that "providing economic opportunities and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive."
"It is not one or the other; we can and should do both at the same time, because we cannot sacrifice the welfare of future generations to meet short-term economic objectives."
She added that even experts from the Mineral Policy Center based in Washington, D.C. have referred to water as "mining's most common casualty."
"Any competent scientist will tell you that mining affects fresh water through the heavy use of water in processing ore, and through water pollution from discharged mine effluent and seepage from tailings and waste rock impoundments," explained Lopez.
Lopez said she hoped legislators and fellow cabinet secretaries "look at the issue of protecting our watersheds in the long term because we could face a very, very serious problem with water many years down the road."
A study conducted by the think tank World Resources Institute (WRI) said in late 2015 that the country is in danger of experiencing water scarcity in 23 years. The study predicts the Philippines will experience a "high" degree of water shortage in the year 2040.
The Philippines is ranked 57th out of 167 countries that will likely be a water-stressed country in 2040. The study defines water stress as “the ratio between total water withdrawals and available renewable surface water at a sub-catchment level.” (SDR/SunStar Philippines)