The NEDA VI team, headed by OIC-Regional Director Arecio A. Casing Jr. visited Caluya Island in the province of Antique on August 10-12, 2022.  Caluya, an island in the northern part of Antique is where the region’s top export coal is produced. It is a first class island municipality in the province of Antique and Semirara Island is one of the three (3) islands in Caluya declared as coal mining reservation sites by virtue of Proclamation No. 649 in 1940.

A courtesy call-cum meeting with Mayor Rigil Kent G. Lim in the first day of the visit at the Caluya Sub-office in Semirara island took place with RD Casing sharing the development directions of the region, timelines for the preparation of the successor Regional Development Plan and the highlights and significant contribution of mining activities in the LGU to the regional and national economy. He also recommended crafting a development master plan to serve as guide in the long-term development of the municipality.

Mayor Lim also discussed the LGU’s on-going projects and major economic drivers and emphasized on the need for improved transport access to the island. Among their priority infrastructure projects include the proposed community airport and alternate seaport to boost local economic growth and promote tourism activities.

The LGU utilized its share of the national wealth from mining with eighty percent (80%) of the fund being utilized to subsidize the cost of electricity in Caluya and 20 percent for the implementation of development projects. One of the corporate social responsibilities (CSR) of the Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC) is Adopt-a-Forest Program to promote sustainable forest management and provide fruit-bearing tree seedlings to the community. Other CSRs are: provision of fiberglass bancas for fisherfolks in partnership with the Department of Energy; conduct communication, information and education roadshows to employees and dependents; and engage them with environmental and social development initiatives to host communities. All of these enhances relationship with stakeholders while maintaining a happy workforce with a positive impact on social wellbeing.

The team witnessed the socioeconomic, environmental and infrastructure activities in the island and its impact on the quality of life of the citizens upon visiting the following projects/offices: the newly constructed Caluya Municipal Sub-office in Semirara Island; the Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC), the largest coal producer in the country with an average annual 16M MT production valued at P12  Billion; the on-going construction of Solar-Powered Caluya Municipal Hall; and the Bagong Pag-asa Ville Yolanda permanent housing project to house 700 families.

Seaweed farming is the main livelihood of the farmers in the island. The team visited the seaweed farms at Sibay Island which provide livelihood to around 200 families in the community.

One of the highlights of the activity is the visit to SMPC’s mine rehabilitation program of the mined out South Panian pit.  It was declared winner by the ASEAN Energy Awards, in the Special Submission category, due to its accelerated rehabilitation program which is done in less than two years.  Panian pit was closed in September 2016 following depletion of its minable and coal reserves. From an elevation of 260 meters below sea level (equivalent to a 78-story building), the mined-out area is now 5 to 11 meters above sea level with rolling terrain and over 407,209 endemic and native trees as of December 2021.

NEDA VI recognizes the importance of the proposed projects in Caluya Island to boost economic growth and local employment by attracting new businesses, economic and tourism activities in the island. The gaps and areas of interventions identified during the visit will be included in the region’s policy and legislative agenda and in the crafting of the successor Regional Development Plan (LMSecreto/NEDA6).