DENR chief vows to assist residents of closed mining site in southern Negros

SIPALAY CITY — Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) pledged to provide alternative livelihood for residents of a closed mining site in this southern Negros city.

Sipalay, located about 170 kilometers south of Bacolod, which is at least a four-hour drive, hosted the Maricalum Mining Corp. copper mine which stopped operations about 10 years ago.

Lopez arrived here Tuesday afternoon after visiting another mine site in Basay town in Negros Oriental.

She then conducted an aerial inspection on board a chopper of the open-pit mining of Maricalum Mining in Barangay San Jose.

After the inspection, Lopez expressed dismay over the destruction, describing it as horrible.

“It looks like hell to me. Everything is horrible,” Lopez said.

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 she assured the residents and the 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 since after mine stopped its operations, there are no other industries in Sipalay except tourism.

Sipalay attracts tourists for its white sand beaches and dive sites.

Earlier, Lopez said that in the past months, the DENR has worked with closed mine communities to find sustainable solutions that balance livelihood and ecological protection.

She also said that the DENR is working with the Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Tourism for eco-tourism initiatives along with the Department of Social Welfare and Development for social safety nets. Marchel P. Espina/