Pristine waterfalls and crystal clear lagoons may soon be the new economic drivers in the southern Philippines as the government continues its crackdown on erring mines. As Ivor Bennett reports, eco-tourism is being marked for deveopment in order to provide alternative livelihoods for mining.
These waterfalls in the southern Philippines attract 100,000 tourists every year And the province they're in could be about to see a flood of new visitors. The government has ear-marked the region for development as an eco-tourism destination. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORESTER, EVERLEE VIOLA, SAYING: "It boosted our economy, not only the village, but the whole city as well." Tourism from the waterfalls earned the area $225,000 US dollars last year. But it needs to make a lot more than that if the government's new economic plan is going to work. The Environment minister Regina Lopez has ordered the closure of 23 of the country's 41 mines. She's also cancelled at least 75 contracts to build news ones. Billions of pesos in compensation have been promised to those affected, as well as new livelihoods in the tourism industry. But miners fear massive unemployment and say not all mines are destructive. This nickel operation has won awards for high standards. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SR MINING INCORPORATED TENEMENTS MANAGER, JUN BELEN, SAYING: "A specific dialogue for a specific mine will give madam Gina (Lopez) a better understanding of how we live according to our environment." The Philippines has been the world's top supplier of nickel ore since 2014. And the livelihoods of 1.2 million people in the industry are at stake. But tourism accounts for 10 percent of GDP in the Philippines and Lopez has promised to spend on roads and infrastructure. Which sector wins will now depend on a review of the crackdown ordered by the President last week.