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WHAT ABOUT US? More than a thousand pro-mining supporters picketed in front of Balanghai Hotel and Convention Center in Butuan City during the dialogue between mining affected local governments and officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Saturday. Photo by Ben Serrano

Local exec, activists say gov’t ill-prepared

By Ben Serrano,
Correspondent

BUTUAN City — Although said in separate press conferences over the weekend, militant groups and local government executives here in Caraga agree that national government is not prepared for the repercussions of the eventual closure of 24 mining firms, 14 of which are in Caraga.

During a press conference on Saturday called by the Kilusang Mayo Uno-Caraga, lumad group Kasalo, and Gabriela said that it might be a little too late if the different national government agencies will talk about convergence now.

“What is happening now is a special kind of problem as it deals with social impact of possible mining closure especially on how will government spend for mining workers’ day to day income if mining will eventually stops,” KMU-Caraga Secretary General Jacinto Taduyan said.

Tanduyan claimed that based on his 20 years as a labor leader, it would take one year or more for a displaced worker to get real benefits.

“If mines will close tomorrow, how will the government deal with the mining workers especially those belonging to KMU and Naflu (National Federation of Labor Unions) and other allied labor groups,” Tanduyan added.

In a separate event on the same day, local government officials of mining affected municipalities in Caraga were assured by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will put in place a convergence plan with other line-agencies to provide alternative jobs for the workers who will be affected by the mining closure order.

However, Tubay, Agusan del Norte Mayor Fidel Garcia, Jr. reacted that while the plan for covergence sounds good, it is too late in the general timeline of the actual closure of mining firms.

“LGU personnel and officials like us, me being a chief executive of a town where two big mining firms Agata Mining and SR Metals are operating are badly affected because we are in direct contact with the people, workers, village people, vendors, real humans in flesh who need to eat three times a day,” Garcia said.

He added that until now concerned agencies Lopez would converge could not even present an official list of mining workers with social service and public health insurance benefits.

“Even the plans to spur tourism, we’re not even sure if national government has enough funds. We are planning to make the mined areas into golf courses but where will we get the funds to do it? We want more farm-to-market roads to develop agriculture. Where will we get other funds? Puro lang tayo meetings, dialogues mula pa noon hanggang ngayon,” Garcia lamented.

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About Ben Serrano

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Ben Serrano covers Caraga for The Gold Star Daily, and is based in Butuan City.

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