Thousands of workers to lose mine jobs in Benguet

>> Saturday, February 18, 2017

Planning, Finance Secretaries hit DENR closure order 

MANKAYAN, Benguet – Thousands of mine workers stand to lose their jobs with impending suspension of operations of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. here and   closure of Benguet Corp. in Itogon town also in the province due to non-compliance to environmental laws.
Benguet, Corp. was ordered closed by environment Secretary Gina Lopez even if it branched out to eco-tourism and is now leasing portions of its area for small-scale mining.  
The two mines were among 23 other firms ordered closed by Lopez nationwide.
This early, Benguet officials said once full closure of the mining companies is implemented, thousands of families would go hungry while crime would shoot up as laid off workers may resort to crime to feed their families. 
The order has not yet been fully implemented as the mining companies were set to appeal their cases with government.
In Baguio City, Baguio Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan reacted regarding the closure of mines, saying taxes being paid by mining corporations were minimal but government should think about laborers and communities affected by the mines that were shut down. 
“Where will they get money to feed their families and send their children to school now that the mines were shut down,” he asked.
 “I am not saying that we close our eyes with the violations committed by the mining corporations but I don’t agree that they just immediately close the mines,” he said.
Domogan, who attended elementary and high school in the mining town of Mankayan where LCMC is located, said it’s impossible that mining corporations are not willing to comply with environmental requirements.
He added mining corporations be given the chance to be operational again. “Instead of permanently closing the mines, why not suspend them until they had complied with environmental requirements needed and if they did not comply after a specific time frame given then that’s the time they close down the operation permanently.”
Lopez’s order to close some two dozen mines fort failing its audit on following environmental laws and concerns sparked concern among two of her colleagues, who said it could hit the economy and employment.
The mining industry -- accused of illegal tree felling and polluting rivers -- has also questioned the order of Lopez.
The Philippines is the world's top supplier of nickel ore and the main exporter to China. The order has already caused a rise in global nickel prices and a fall in local mining shares.
"I don't think (Lopez) did it arbitrarily but anything like this would need a response like more scientific and data-driven studies," said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia in Manila.
"Obviously it will have an effect on GDP and employment but we don't have the hard data," he told AFP.
Lopez, a staunch mining critic, said last week that 23 mines had been told to close after illegally encroaching on watersheds, leaking waste into rivers and destroying trees. A further five mines had been ordered to suspend operations.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, on his official Twitter account, also expressed misgivings, saying: "I am deeply concerned over the welfare of the 1.2 million people affected by the closure of the 23 PH (Philippine) mines. This will result in joblessness."
                The closures would also hit local government tax revenues, he said.
Lopez's order was the result of a government audit that started in July last year after President Rodrigo Duterte took office.
Duterte has backed Lopez's order even as reports say the mining industry may challenge it in court.
In a statement, Lopez said she would outdo the industry, declaring "give me... maximum of two years. I will prove that a green economy can create more jobs than mining could ever create."
She also said mine workers would not end up unemployed but would be found jobs in mine rehabilitation and reforestation.
"My issue is not about mining, my issue is about social justice," she said.
Eufracia Taylor, Asia analyst at risk advisory company Verisk Maplecroft, warned that stricter oversight and the review of licences would likely prompt companies to delay further investment.
She also cited "mounting concerns over new environmental and social requirements, and their potential to drive up the costs of compliance" in the nickel industry.

"The prospect of higher operational costs could well impact the commercial viability of some projects," the Singapore-based Taylor said. – With a report from Karen Copa


  © Blogger templates Palm by 2008

Back to TOP  

Web Statistics