DENR chief vows help for residents of closed southern Negros mining site

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Environment Sec. Gina Lopez (Reuters file)

SIPALAY CITY, Philippines — Environment Secretary Gina Lopez pledged to provide alternative livelihood for residents of a closed mining site in Sipalay City in southern Negros Occidental.

Sipalay, about 170 kilometers south of Bacolod, hosted the Maricalum Mining Corp. copper mine, which stopped operations about 10 years ago.

Lopez visited Maricalum Mining Tuesday afternoon after visiting another mine site in Basay town, Negros Oriental, inspecting the closed copper mine’s open pit in Barangay San Jose.

“It looks like hell to me. Everything is horrible,” Lopez described what she saw.

The DENR chief then met with about 100 residents in a mining forum held at Sipalay City Hall.

Lopez acknowledged that affected communities have lost their livelihood and assured the residents and city government of assistance from DENR if they will also commit to do their part.

She added that the DENR can help set up ecotourism projects anchored on her Genuine Economic Growth program, which focuses on area development, involving both the people and environment involved.

Lopez presented models of area development approach that become successful in various communities, including Ugong Rock in Puerto Princesa City, where ecotourism improved the lives of the people.

“If Palawan can do it, so can you,” she told the forum participants.

For his part, Mayor Oscar Montilla said it is difficult to generate jobs for his constituents, noting that after the mine stopped operations, there have been no other industries in Sipalay except tourism.