There is a silver lining on the quest of the people of Catanduanes to eventually stop any possibility of mining activity in the island.
The lower house of representatives recently approved a bill declaring the province a mining-free zone. House Bill 670 was passed on final reading as endorsed for approval by the natural resources committee.
The approved bill, authored by the island’s lone representative Cesar Sarmiento, is bound for the senate which is expected to be favorably enacted into law.
It must be recalled the energy department awarded vast tract of forest land in the province for coal exploration by Monte Oro Resources and Energy Inc., but later backed out amid strong opposition by locals and concerned citizens under the leadership of the Catholic church.
Another project was recently awarded by the agency covering 7,000 hactares of virgin forests in the municipalities of Panganiban, Bagamanoc and Caramoran for coal exporation by Altura Mining Philippines Inc., a local subsidiary of Australian-owned Altura Mining Limited.
A study conducted about the impact of mining revealed that the 60,000 hectares of forests on the island could disappear once the Altura operation is allowed.
According to the report, the five-year project covering 7,000 hectares would yield 1.2 million tons of coal which would provide a share to the province at an estimate of P76 million and provide 500 local mining laborers temporary job.
The same report said, about 1,400 hectares, a portion of the mining site which are devoted to abaca and can easily produce at least P26 million per year worth of products for some 9,000 farmers would be lost to the mining exploration.
What has become of Rapu-rapu, because of mining?
In five years, an amount of P132 million in abaca production could be lost by the province in exchange for the P76-million share from the mining operations.
Catanduanes is a major abaca producing province with over 20,000 metric tons yield yearly. It is 35 percent of the Philippine’s total output.
The previous and current governor of the province, also oppose mining in the island.