Sibuyan execs see tourism as mining alternative
SAN PEDRO, Laguna—Local authorities in Sibuyan promised to develop projects that will generate employment for residents who have lost their jobs after the government ordered a stop to mining exploration on the island.
As an alternative to mining, the government is boosting tourism to keep its economy afloat, said San Fernando town Mayor Dindo Rios in a phone interview on Friday.
San Fernando, with a population of about 21,000, is a fourth-class municipality in Sibuyan Island in Romblon province.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources this month issued a cease and desist order to Altai Philippines Mining Corp., heeding the petitions of the local government and environmental groups to stop the company’s nickel exploration on 1,580 hectares of land in Sibuyan.
To comply with the MGB order, company personnel based in Sibuyan have “packed up” their equipment, Rios said after visiting the mining site in Barangay Taclobo.
“They’re back to eating porridge,” said a source privy to the company’s mining activity, describing the MGB order’s effects on the livelihood of some families.
The source said at least 30 residents and former illegal loggers were hired as drill helpers for the “initial field study” by the mining firm.
Each helper was paid P275 a day for eight hours of work. The source said the mining operation could have provided livelihood to more families to address poverty.
Working closely with antimining advocate Gina Lopez, of the ABS-CBN Foundation, Rios said authorities are pushing eco-tourism projects instead to address unemployment and poverty.
He said one project would be to develop the Cantingas River, which is said to be the cleanest inland water body in the Philippines, by building a zipline and other facilities to attract tourists.
Rios said Lopez had pledged an initial P1 million for the project that will begin in two months.
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