Gov’t to spend P8B for workers displaced by mining closures

Camille Elemia
Gov’t to spend P8B for workers displaced by mining closures
But Senator Joel Villanueva hits the government for being unprepared for the effects of mining closures on workers

MANILA, Philippines – The government will spend P8 billion to build ecological and economic zones for the workers displaced by the closure of 23 mining operations.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said this on Wednesday, February 8, during a Senate labor committee hearing.

According to Lopez, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau estimates there are 219,000 workers in the mining industry as of the 3rd quarter of 2016.

Chamber of Mines of the Philippines executive vice president Nelia Halcon said there are 19,000 direct employees who will be affected by mine closures, while 78,000 will be indirectly affected.

Halcon added there will be 1.2 million indirect and induced workers who would be affected by the closures.

But Lopez downplayed this, saying there are other ways to earn aside from mining. After all, she said, the industry contributes only 0.004% to government revenues and only 0.6% to national jobs. She stood by her decision to close 23 mining operations. (READ: Confusion over the mining list: How did DENR decide on closure?)

“Who said mining is the only thing? Blue lagoon, enchanted river, mountains, river, who said it can only be about mining? The plan is to create ecological and economic zones to create jobs,” Lopez said.

“77 years, 100 years of mining. Surigao is still poor. Dinagat is poor. 26 of the mining operations are in Caraga. Eh bakit mahirap Caraga? If it’s so good dapat mayaman na sila lahat (Why is Caraga still poor? If mining is so good, they should be rich by now).”

Lopez also said Cabinet members are set to visit Surigao del Norte, where some mining operations were suspended, on February 15 and 16, and Dinagat Islands on February 17 and 18.

“We will do our planning there together with workers, farmers, fishermen. Not only that, DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) is putting in money, DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) is putting in money. The whole Cabinet is going there. We will come up with a powerful economy there,” she said.

Government not ready

Senate labor committee chairman Joel Villanueva, however, seemed unconvinced, saying the government is unprepared for the effect of mining closures in the country.

Villanueva then urged government officials to get “their acts together.”

“Well, ‘yun ang panawagan ko sa administration – [get] their acts together dahil ‘di biro ito. ‘Yung 19,000 to be directly affected ay ‘di natin minamaliit ito,” Villanueva told reporters after the hearing.

(That is my appeal to the administration, to [get] their acts together because this is no joke. The 19,000 workers to be directly affected is not a small number.)

“Nakita sa pagdinig na hindi pa talaga ganoon ka-ready (We have seen in the hearing that the government is not yet that ready) for a transition period for our workers who will be displaced because of this closure,” he added.

The senator also pointed out the seeming confusion among government agencies.

“I have to say this, kanina parang nagugulat ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan sa sinasabi ng DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources). DENR lang nakakaalam ng ginagawa nila. Nakakalungkot lang na medyo kulang sa coordination bawat ahensya. Importante ito, lalo [na] kapakanan ng manggagawa ang pinag-uusapan,” Villanueva said.

(I have to say this, earlier the other agencies seemed surprised by what the DENR is saying. The DENR is the only one that knows what it is doing. It’s sad that there is lack of coordination among agencies. This is important especially if we are talking about the welfare of workers.) –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email