Environment Secretary Gina Lopez challenged mining companies, which she ordered suspended or closed, to give her at least 18 months to develop areas they previously occupied into ecological zones that "can create more jobs."
“Give me a year and a half, maximum two years. They’ve been there for 77 years . . . A green economy can create more jobs than the mining could ever (create),” she said, referring to mines in Dinagat Islands, in an interview on dzMM.
Lopez said she has learned of 185 possible ecotourism areas in Dinagat Islands, which could be developed in place of mines and create enterprises for locals.
“Give me a year and a half, at the beginning they’ll have more jobs than they could ever imagine and 'yung ekonomiya nila hindi magiging dependent sa mina or outside influence kasi pera nila 'yan and resources nila yan,” she said.
(Their economy would not be dependent on mines or outside influence because that will be their money and resources.)
“Let them live in the beauty of their place,” she added, noting that mining has not helped alleviate poverty in the area.
Lopez recognized that some people will be affected by the closing of the mines, but she maintained that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will provide alternative jobs for those who will be affected.
“I admit that there are people who benefit from the mining kasi may trabaho. But the number of farmers, fishermen and communities and children that suffer because of operations is much, much more so we make our choice,” she said.
Lopez revealed that consultations and planning will be conducted with affected mining employees from February 16 to 18 to discuss alternative jobs.
She said the DENR will announce more "policies" on February 14 but did not specify.