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Green projects seen to fill up job losses from mine closures

By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star)
Updated February 28, 2017 – 12:00am
http://www.philstar.com/business/2017/02/28/1676353/green-projects-seen-fill-job-losses-mine-closures

MANILA, Philippines – Job losses from mine closures can be easily replaced by green projects approved by the environment department, said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

While there is still no full tally of the total number of workers to be affected by the closure order slapped by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on 23 mining firms, Pernia noted the entire mining and quarrying industry employs only around 217,000 workers, accounting for “half of one percent of total persons employed,”

“Gina (Environment Secretary Gina Lopez) says she has alternative employment for them. She is into local area development to make local areas more attractive for tourism,” he said in a recent interview. “We also have a lot of construction projects.”

Lopez said last week her department is looking at the development of several mined out areas into ecotourism zones to rehabilitate the former mines and provide livelihood to affected communities.

Around 13 towns in Dinagat and Surigao are being considered for development into ecotourism sites integrated with organic farms. These, she said, would give residents a sustainable source of livelihood.

“In mining, the money goes out (of the community) but here in a green economy, 95 percent of the money is retained (in the community),” she said.

Lopez said the DENR is also coordinating with the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the provision of emergency employment to workers who will be affected by the closure order.

DENR’s harsh stance against the mining industry is unlikely to severely hurt the economy, according to Pernia, since the extractive industry only makes up 0.99 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) as of 2016. This corresponds to a contribution to the economy of $8.3 billion.

The multiplier effect of the industry is also “relatively small,” Pernia said.

He recognized, however, the ill-effects of the jobs loss at the family level.

“When you’re a mining worker and you are displaced, the family suffers. Of course at the family level it can be devastating. It is only at the macro level (that the effect is not severe),” he said.

Environment Undersecretary for legal affairs Maria Paz Luna said most of the mines ordered closed are still operating as they have not yet received the order.

These companies have 15 days from receipt of the closure order to file a motion for reconsideration before the Office of the Environment Secretary or the Office of the President or face certain closure.

“If they do not appeal, they have to close,” she said.

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