DOT Bicol opposes proposed mining in Albay tourist spots

Rhadyz B. Barcia

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DOT Bicol opposes proposed mining in Albay tourist spots
The proposal to mine limestone in Camalig town is being opposed by the regional tourism office, as it would destroy several tourist attractions

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Several natural and cultural tourist spots in Albay could be affected if the government approves the application of a mining firm to mine vast limestone deposits in Camalig town.

The proposed mining application of Alex Wee Jr, of Minekraft Resources Corporation of Sorsogon, which was filed at the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, will cover at least 8 barangays where several tourist spots are located.

The proposal to mine limestone in the area was vehemently opposed by Maria Nini Ravanilla, regional director of the Department of Tourism in Bicol, as it would destroy the tourist destinations. 

Ravanilla personally appeared last week before the joint committee hearing of the committees on tourism and environment of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay chaired by Board Members Glenda Ong-Bongao and Job Belen, overseeing tourism and environment respectively, to express her opposition to the proposed mining site. 

Before her personal appearance at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay on Tuesday morning, Ravanilla wrote a letter addressed to DENR Regional Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales, through Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Director Guillermo Molina Jr.

In her letter to Gonzales, Ravanilla argued the historical and cultural significance of the following tourist destinations in the municipality of Camalig: 

  • Japanese occupation-era tunnels
  • Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave
  • Quitinday Green Hills, a group of more than 100 tiny, unique hills similar to Chocolate Hills in Bohol
  • Quituinan Hill
  • Sumlang Lake

These are in the barangays of Palanog, Bantonan, Baligang, Quitinday, Caguiba, Piriaan, Binaderahan, and Miti.

These places are under the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon (Almasor) tourism program, an alliance of the 3 provinces to showcase unique destinations that would attract new investors and tourists.

Under the Almasor plan, various infrastructure projects and programs have been planned from 2015 to 2030 for Camalig.

Ravanilla said mining goes against Almasor’s objective of sustainable inclusive growth in the area.

“Our agency vehemently opposes Minekraft Resources Corporation’s application for exploration as not only the environmental impact of mining has a detrimental effect on the currently thriving natural and environmental tourism products of Camalig,” she said. 

“It will also place into wastage almost half a billion pesos in investments made by the government in improving access and connectivity, and in tourism product development.”

The application for mining exploration in Camalig was filed a few months before Albay Governor Joey Salceda’s term ends. In 2007, Salceda had imposed a “no new mining exploration” policy, which was reinforced by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan through its own resolution.

Salceda downplayed the gains from mining operations, noting that it comes with the destruction of the environment.

He also said that the benefits received by Bicol from the local mining industry are “very little compared to the billions of pesos worth of mineral resources extracted from the region.”

There are currently two major mining companies in Albay: Lafayette Philippines, Incorporated (LPI), located in the island town of Rapu-Rapu and now on rehabilitation phase; and GoodFound Cement Corporation in the town of Camalig.

The GoodFound factory, owned by Taiwanese national Chuang Teng Ko, started operating during the administration of former governor Al Francis Bichara, who is currently Albay 2nd District representative. Bichara is again running for governor of Albay.

GoodFound quarries limestone within the Quitinday Green Hills area, processing the mineral for cement production.

Both Lafayette and GoodFound have been penalized by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) for violations of their Environmental Compliance Certificates.

Ravanilla challenged the residents of Camalig as well as officials from the provincial to barangay levels to take action, as the approval or rejection of the mining application rests on their shoulders.

“At the end of the day, the decision will be within their hands,” she said.

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