CLAVER, Surigao del Norte – The local government has proven over time that mining and eco-tourism can co-exist in mineral-rich communities that contradicts the common perception that the exploitation and development of the natural resources is destructive to the environment.
For several decades, this mining town had heavily relied on mining as its major source of income that allowed it to leap frog from a sixth-class local government unit in 2001 to a second class municipality lately.
Further, Claver was also able to be awarded the coveted Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) in 2016, 2017 and 2021 where the preservation and protection of the environment is one of the 10 core areas of governance that must be hurdled by aspiring local governments to be given the said prestigious recognition.
Mayor Georgia Gokiangkee disclosed that the municipality is proud to have an islet named Little Maldives that serves as one of the town’s major tourist attractions aside from having a potential world-class dive site near a marine protected area and a mine site.
Under the local government’s environment code, mining companies are mandated to adopt and maintain marine protected areas to help sustain the good state of the environment within the locality aside from the contribution of the firms to the reforestation and other environmental preservation and protection programs of the government.
Claver is also proud to have white sand beaches near nickel mine sites which contradicts the common perception that mining activities pollute the land and bodies of water within its areas of operation.
Through the years, she claimed that the local government had not been dependent on its Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the national government because of the significant increase in its local revenues triggered by the operation of 3 nickel mines and a mineral processing plant.
The local chief executive stipulated that the town’s IRA is more than P200 million annually but its locally generated revenues is roughly more than P600 million and increasing annually because of the operation of various businesses.
Mayor Gokiangkee narrated that the local government compelled mining companies to show their commitment in supporting the growth and development of their host communities by providing the needs of the people in the said areas, especially that the said places are inhabited by members of the vulnerable sectors of the society who need long-term interventions to improve their living condition.
According to her, the local government made sure that the mining companies were able to elicit the support of the host communities and the local officials by showing their capability to invest in the basic needs of people in the said areas for them to have sustainable sources of livelihood.
Moreover, Gokiangkee emphasized that the local government and the mining companies also made sure that the education of the children had been provided for them to be able to land in gainful employment that they could use to uplift the living condition of their families.
Of the town’s 14 barangays, 4 are said to be mining barangays that are adjacent to other mining areas in nearby towns. The status of the soil in the said mining areas is said to be arid where root crops do not actually grow.
However, the mayor explained that with the all-out support of the mining companies and other agriculture experts, the fertility of the land had significantly improved through the years that is why there are already vegetables, shrubs and trees that were grown to contribute in sustaining food security and help in bringing back the state of the mined out areas close to the original.
In support to the programs, projects, policies and activities of mayor Gokiangkee’s administration, Vice Mayor Narlito Jamesula revealed that the local legislative body did its part by passing the appropriate legislations such as the town’s environment code, revenue code, investment code among others to synchronize the efforts of the local government towards sustained progress of the municipality and gearing towards greater heights.
The local revenue code mandates mining companies to pay to the municipality a certain percentage of their annual gross receipts for their business taxes aside from the payment of their real property taxes among other fees that had been levied for their continuous operations.
Mayor Gokiangkee said that the local officials are willing to share to other local governments their best practices that allowed the municipality to leap frog from a mere sixth class town to a second class municipality in a span of just 21 years for them to be able to replicate the same in their respective areas of jurisdiction and maximize the benefits of responsible mining.
She emphasized that what the local government is supporting is responsible mining so that mining-related problems could be avoided and prevented to negate the impression that had been created that mining is destructive.
Mayor Gokiangkee served as one of the resource persons during the Community Relations Conference of the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) that was held at the CAP Cultural and Trade Center in Camp John Hay, Baguio City. Her husband Eddie was the 5-time municipal mayor of the locality while she is now serving her second term as local chief executive.