Press Release
February 8, 2017

Villanueva's opening remarks during the inquiry on displaced workers of mines

Sa inyo pong lahat, isa pong mapagpalayang hapon.

Last week, February 2, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered the closure of 23 large-scale mining firms and the suspension of five others in Benguet, Bulacan, Zambales, Homonhon, Dinagat Islands and Surigao del Norte.

Consequently, former Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno reported that the order will affect about 20,000 workers. On the other hand, Chamber of Mines Chairman Artemio Disini estimated that over 1.2 million workers will lose their jobs because of the closure order. Senior cabinet officials, Pernia and Dominguez also mentioned that the mine closure order will certainly cost jobs.

This committee concerns itself with matters relating to the displacement of workers that's why we have included this very urgent measure in today's agenda. Personally, I am deeply concerned that a huge number of the labor force would end up unemployed because of the closure order.

Of course, we fully support the initiative of the DENR to improve the state of our environment but it is also our mandate to ensure that our workers in these mining firms are protected. I think it is important that the affected workers and their families know that the government is doing its best, at this point, to safeguard their rights and ensure that DENR's closure order will not lead to joblessness in their communities.

Hence, the purpose of this hearing, as clearly stated in Senate Resolution No. 281, is to inquire on the "employment transition plan" for the affected workers prepared by relevant government agencies, especially the DOLE.

The chair is also eager to know if there are capacity building programs and trainings which will be provided to help transitioning workers find new jobs.

Secretary Gina Lopez was quoted as saying that the areas previously occupied by mining companies can be developed into ecological zones that can create green industry and green jobs. I think we can tap tech-voc training, especially green skills training courses catering to the needs for green jobs. I just hope that these proposals on transitioning the workers to alternative livelihood were considered before to the closure of the 23 mining firms.

Kaya gusto po nating malaman: Una, ilan po ba talaga ang mga manggagawang maaapektuhan ng closure at suspension order ng DENR? Kasi iba-iba po ang figures na aming naririnig. Pangalawa, may nakahanda na bang "transition program" sa mga maaapektuhang manggagawa o nai-konsidera po ba ito bago ipatupad ang closure order? At pangatlo, may mga alternatibong hanap-buhay na bang pwedeng pagdalhan sa mga manggagawa ng mga ipinasarang minahan o kaya ay re-training lalo na po para sa mga low-skilled workers para naman hindi sila mahirapang makahanap ng trabaho?

Ito po ang mga katanungan na nais nating mabigyan ng katugunan ngayong hapon na ito.

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