By Cai Ordinario - August 2, 2017
IN a bid to curb the negative effects of mining on its environment, the Caraga region plans to impose stricter mining regulations, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said.
In a statement on Wednesday, Neda Undersecretary for Regional Development Adoracion Navarro said the region’s medium-term economic blueprint, the Regional Development Plan (RDP) 2017-2022 of Caraga, has limited mining activities to existing mining areas, excluding watersheds within the mining concessions.
She said the economy may suffer short-term effects, but these are temporary and can be easily reversed.
“There’s that risk in the short-term. That’s why the region must be able to develop alternative industries to mining,” Navarro told the BusinessMirror on Wednesday.
“[But a] value-chain analysis of potential alternative industries must be conducted. That’s also meant to diversify Caraga’s sources of economic growth in the medium to long term,” she said.
The RDP states the region plans to establish Minahang Bayan sites, where activities of small-scale miners will be monitored closely to ensure their compliance with environmental laws and policies.
The Social Development and Management Program fund will also be utilized to ensure that host and neighboring communities have sustainable and environment-friendly livelihood projects.
It said expanding the economic opportunities in the region entails that industry and services should be diversified by operationalizing existing and proposed economic zones and mainstreaming ecotourism.
“A transition period should be in place for communities that rely heavily on mining. During this time, alternatives to mining should be identified to introduce sustainable sources of income for the people in the region,” Navarro said in the statement.
The plan added that mined-out areas will be rehabilitated and transformed into ecoparks for recreation and tourism, generating jobs and income for communities.
These strategies, Navarro said, will not only pave the way for the region to become the fishery, agro-forestry, mineral and eco-tourism center of the Philippines by 2022, but also allow it to post a higher gross regional development product.
The RDP identifies Butuan City as the regional center; Agusan del Norte as the agro-processing and industrial-estates zone; and Agusan del Sur as the agro-forestry center and food basket of the region.
The plan also aims to develop Dinagat Islands as the region’s ecotourism and fishery center and Surigao del Norte as its major ecotourism destination and fishery producer.
“Our regional office has no estimate [of the ill effects of this policy shift]. It’s a risk at this point [and it’s] not certain the GRDP [gross regional domestic product] will decline,” Navarro said. “For all you know, GRDP growth could increase when spending for rehabilitation of mined-out areas kick in.”
Based on the 2015 Poverty data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Caraga is the second-poorest region nationwide. Its average poverty incidence by population is pegged at 39.1 percent.
The poorest province in the region is Agusan del Sur, with a poverty incidence of 47.3 percent.
The PSA estimated there are 1.062 million poor Filipinos living in Caraga, and 318,638 are residing in Agusan del Sur.
In 2016 Caraga posted a GRDP growth of 2.5 percent. This was slower than the 4.5-percent growth it posted in 2015.