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The Department of Tourism has listed 78 "existing and emerging tourism development areas" that the Aquino administration will be protecting from mining activities.
According to the list obtained by InterAksyon.com, among the protected areas are islands with known fragile ecosystems like Batanes Island; Palawan (San Vicente-El Nido-Taytay, Puerto Princesa, Southern Palawan, Busuanga-Coron-Culion Islands); Boracay Island in Western Visayas; Bantayan Island and Malapascua in Central Visayas; Dinagat and Siargao Islands in Surigao del Norte; Camiguin Island in Cagayan de Oro; Samal Island in Davao; as well as Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Jolo in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
According to sources in the Department of Tourism, this was the same "list of TDAs (tourism development areas) which the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) was furnished to work on. As you can see, some are as big as regions, provinces, or as detailed as coastal areas, lakes or islands."
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, in Malacañang on Monday to announce the new Executive Order on Mining, said he was not aware if mining activities were already present in said protected tourism areas, but confirmed "there are applications [for mining permits there]."
Groups opposing mining in the country have pushed for the protection of tourism and agricultural areas as well as improved public consultations with local stakeholders and among relevant government agencies.
The 78 protected tourism areas comprise 20 "product-market thematic tourism cluster destinations" under the government’s recently-announced National Tourism Development Plan. Said tourism areas or clusters were finalized by the DOT based on "extensive consultations" with tourism stakeholders nationwide, agency officials said.
They added that the identification of these tourism destinations will guide public officials and private sector entities on priority areas for investments especially in terms of infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
The NTDP calls for the total investment of P265 billion over five years from 2011 to 2016 to help the country reach its target arrivals of some 10 million international and 35.5 million domestic tourists by 2016.
Of the total investment needed to develop these tourism areas, the Aquino administration is going to spend P74 billion beginning this year for infrastructure, improvement of tourist sites, and marketing support. The rest is expected to be funded by the private sector.
As per the DOT list, the most number of protected areas are in the Northern Philippines and Southern Philippines, each with seven clusters of destinations.
For Northern Philippines, the protected areas include: Batanes, Cagayan Coast and Babuyan Islands (NP-1); Laoag-Vigan (NP-2); Sierra Madre (NP-3); Cordillera (NP-4); Lingayen Gulf (NP-5); Central Luzon (NP-6); and Metro Manila and Calabarzon (NP-7).
For Southern Philippines, the seven clusters are: Surigao-Dinagat Island (SP-1); Agusan River Basin (SP-2); Cagayan de Oro Coast and Hinterland (SP-3); Zamboanga Peninsula (SP-4); Davao Gulf and Coast (SP-5); Cotobato-Saranggani (SP-6); and ARMM (SP-7).
Six clusters are under Central Philippines which includes Bicol (CP-1); Marinduque-Mindoro-Romblon (CP-2); Palawan (CP-3); Western Visayas (CP-4); Central Visayas (CP-5); and Eastern Visayas (CP-6).
The Aquino government's Executive Order on Mining issues a moratorium on new mining contracts, and allows the Legislature to draw up the relevant laws that will change the tax structure for mining operations.
According to Paje, there are about 300 current mining contracts, of which only some 33 are actually operating.
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