MANILA—The Palace on Thursday welcomed the opening of the first phase of the Laguna Lake Highway, which could help commuters travel faster.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the opening of the Laguna Lake Highway Phase is good news to commuters since it would cut travel time in the area.
The first phase includes two additional lanes from Napindan to M.L. Quezon section in Taguig. Abella said it is now open to the public.
A 10.7-kilometer road network is expected to cut the travel time from Taytay to Bicutan by 50 percent. This means that about an hour’s travel time from Taytay to Bicutan will be further reduced to 30 minutes when the whole project is completed, Abella said.
Abella meanwhile said that PHP3.95 billion worth of Senior High School Vouchers has been granted by the Department of Education. The Senior High School students’ vouchers are now available to 607,208 program beneficiaries, the Palace official said.
Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez also joined Abella during Thursday’s press briefing. She highlighted DENR’s programs in addressing concerns in the mining industry and providing livelihood to the people who will be affected by destructive forms of mineral extraction.
Lopez said that she feels that economic growth would only be genuine if it brings social justice, and the people are free from poverty and suffering.
Genuine economic growth comes with area development, Lopez explained. Area development is taking a particular area, seeing its potential, and nurturing and developing its potential for the people of that community. It has three components: ecological, economic, and educational. “And what we want to do is give people access to the environment and, in that way, bring economic growth. This is our performance indicators: health, happiness, peace and order, so on and so forth,” Lopez said.
There are also plans for a convergence of different government agencies to develop Dinagat and Surigao, Lopez said, adding that she alone has PHP8 billion at her disposal.
“So if we use the government money well and with the power that government has, and we converge like if DOST, DTI, DSWD, we all converge there… Give me a year. There is no way we can’t make a difference,” she said.
Lopez also reiterated her firm stance against allowing extractive industries in the country’s watershed areas because it will kill the community life of the people.
She reported that the mining industry has generated PHP82.4 billion as of 2014 and 235,000 jobs, including quarrying. In the third quarter of 2016, the number of jobs is 219,000 including those in quarrying operations, Lopez said.
In contrast, the tourism industry has produced PHP982 billion in the same period and 4.7 million jobs.
The Philippines is the fifth most mineralized country on the planet, according to Lopez. It is the top nickel producer, the fifth biggest in nickel reserves, and fourth biggest in copper.
With regard to mines facing closures, Lopez said she has the right to close down their operations because of their violations.
If the mines disagree with her decision, they could lodge an appeal to the President, but their operations continue while it’s on appeal.
When the President decides on the closure order, it becomes final and their operations stop but they have an option to go to court, Lopez said.