BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – After a tragic landslide which was allegedly exacerbated by small-scale mining, Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan announced the mining town's plan to transition to farming.
Palangdan made the announcement on Wednesday, September 19, during a press conference on the aftermath of Ompong (Mangkhut), the typhoon that triggered the landslides in Itogon.
"We are going to agro-tourism project[s], as stated by our President that we should go agro-tourism. So that's it, we are introducing, little by little, the people will forget mining. Because mining is only [a] temporary source of income," Palangdan said.
According to him, more than 50% in Itogon depend on mining for a living, while the rest work in agriculture. With Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu's recent order to stop small-scale mining, most of the town face the possibility of losing their lifeline.
The mayor noted that while mining has been a legacy business in the mountainous town, much of their lands, although steep, are arable.
Palangdan said later in an ambush interview that he's looking at coffee beans as his town's main agricultural product, given the demand for Benguet Arabica coffee.
Asked for a time frame for the transition, Palangdan said he hopes that in 5 years, his town will no longer be dependent on digging the soil for gold ores.
Meanwhile, Benguet Governor Crescencio Pacalso said that the government – both national and local – will initiate livelihood programs for the residents of Itogon. – Rappler.com
Read more stories from Rappler's coverage of the Itogon landslide: