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Power, mining key to improving Mindanao’s economy – Dureza

HAGONOY, Davao del Sur (MindaNews/01 August) – Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chair Sec. Jesus Dureza on Saturday said the development of power and mining industries should be among the top long-term priorities in the efforts to boost the region’s economy.

Dureza said there is a need to develop more hydropower dams and other energy sources in Mindanao to avert power shortages.

He recalled that when the El Nino dry spell hit Mindanao from January to May this year the island suffered power outages that affected the business sector.

Currently, Mindanao relies mainly on power derived from hydroelectric sources, he added.

He noted that Mindanao has many mini-hydro potentials that could help ease future power shortages.

Aside from hydropower plants, the secretary proposed developing fuel-fired power plants like the planned coal-fired power plant in Sarangani province.

An Alcantara-led power generation firm is negotiating with contractors to construct a $450-million 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in nearby Maasim, Sarangani.

“We have learned from our experience during the El Nino. Unlike in the past, the cycle of the dry spell is about 10 years. But now experts say it could be shorter. So we must be prepared for it. Otherwise Mindanao’s economy will suffer,” said Dureza, who was in Barangay Aplaya here Saturday for the turnover of the ACT for Peace livelihood project to the community.

Dureza also serves as the national director of the Act for Peace Programme.

The secretary also pushed for the promotion of mining as Mindanao’s number one investment potential.

He expressed disappointment over the passage of the Provincial Environment Code of South Cotabato that bans the open-pit mining method which he said is not prohibited under the Mining Act of 1995.

“The law (Mining Act of 1995) passed by Congress does not even prohibit the open-pit mining method. But the South Cotabato government went further.  The Environment Code does not simply regulate but totally bans it,” he told reporters here.

The Environment Code, which totally bans the open-pit mining method in the province, sends a bad signal to the investors, he stressed.

But the official acknowledged the value of having an opposition group that will serve as “watchdog” of the harmful effects of mining operations on the environment.

He said the government should still push for the development of an environment-friendly mining industry in Mindanao that would address the concerns of the people, particularly those who are opposed to it.

For these priorities to materialize, he said the government must be persistent in attracting more investors to Mindanao. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)

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