Corporate News

Heiress eyes venture to ward off mining

Posted on December 22, 2011

HEIRESS AND environment advocate Regina “Gina” L. Lopez is looking to invest in Sibuyan Island, Romblon, along with business partners to turn the area into an eco-tourism site in a bid to keep out interested mining firms.

“My way to remove mining is to remove poverty. I want to remove poverty in Sibuyan through ecotourism,” Ms. Lopez, who is managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc. said in a press conference yesterday.

“I am planning to invest there,” she said, noting that while a specific amount has yet to be identified, a master plan is starting to be crafted.

She said the plan will provide an alternative to mining investments in the reportedly mineral-rich island.

In September, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau cancelled the permit given to Altai Philippines Mining Corp. to explore for nickel over a 1,580-hectare area in the island following the petition of the municipal mayor that such activity would disrupt the island’s biodiversity.

Ms. Lopez said that ecotourism investments are a better way to provide livelihood to communities. Ecotourism, she claimed, allows economic benefits to trickle down to the locals unlike in mining where companies reportedly reap the bulk of the gains.

She pointed to the reported success of her past projects, saying she had invested P1.5 million for ventures such as dolphin-watching tours, a floating restaurant, firefly watching programs, and Ugong Rock Spelunking in Palawan in 2008, and she has seen how the lives of the people there have improved.

Boatmen there, after taking part of the ecotourism projects, are now said to be earning up to P30,000.

She also said she has recovered the investment she made, by generating P1.99 million from the visit of 20,383 tourists in 2009.

Last year, she said that the amount of P2.85 million was generated from the visit of 29,103 tourists in the site.

“How can mining claim to be the hope out of poverty if it can’t even clean its turf? Even after years of mining, there are still poor people in the communities,” she said.

“Mining companies have no right to be in island ecosystems. It is irresponsible,” she said.

The Chamber of Mines, however, has reported remitting P1.38 billion in revenues to the government, most of the amount coming from large-scale firms.

The sector is said to contribute 2% to the country’s gross domestic product.

Ms. Lopez nevertheless said the Philippines, being one of the few countries in the world rich in flora and fauna, should protect its resources and prevent mining activities. -- Louella D. Desiderio