MANILA, Philippines – Slowly but surely, mining and logging will wane under the Duterte administration.
This is what President Rodrigo Duterte promised during the Mindanao Environment Summit on Thursday, August 4, in Davao City.
To an audience that included Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, Duterte said mining and logging are industries already in decline in the Philippines.
“Mining is a sunset industry, almost. Including logging. It’s not even sunset time, it’s already too late,” he said.
These two industries, often perceived as environmentally destructive, are sources of economic growth the country can do away with, added the President.
“Ika nga (As they say), if there is 24 hours in one day, logging is on its 25th hour. Tapos na ‘yan (It should be finished). We cannot have this,” he said.
In the next few years of his administration, he intends to bring an end to the industries even if many powerful people will try to stop him.
“Many will get mad, many will get angry, many would like to maintain the status quo. They are already in power, maybe elected officials, appointed, they will hang on to that. Kaya dahan-dahan kong sisirain ‘yan (That’s why I will slowly destroy it),” said Duterte.
His ill will toward miners and loggers stems from what he refers to as the “historical injustice” of oligarchs from “imperial Manila” profiting from Mindanao’s resources.
He cited, as an example, the fate of a hillside in Tubay, Agusan del Norte after it was mined by the mining company of Eric Gutierrez, a friend of former interior secretary and his rival in the 2016 presidential race, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.
The decline of mining and logging in Mindanao would “open all opportunities to Filipinos – irrespective of tribe, race, religion,” he claimed.
“It’s time to reconfigure the wealth of the nation amongst the citizens,” Duterte added.
The President also again defended Lopez from critics, saying that though she is part of one of the most powerful families in the country, she “hates oligarchs.”
“Gina, she’s a billionaire but look at the way she treats herself. She is a crusader, and she loves the country, and she hates oligarchs,” said Duterte.
He repeated his instructions to her department to close down mining sites of companies that don’t comply with government’s environmental protection regulations.
“We will go after mining that doesn’t follow the strictest standards. I’m telling you, the best practices sa mining industry can be found in Canada and Australia,” he said.
Under Lopez, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has already suspended the operations of at least 6 mining companies since the audit of all existing mines in the country began in July.
In her speech in the same event, Lopez urged the people of Mindanao to help protect the environment so they can “enjoy the resources” of the region.
“I need your help to protect our environment. We need your help. Let us do our share for our environment,” Lopez repeatedly asked the crowd made up mostly of students from the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU).
She said under her watch, the DENR will have a “closer working relationship” with all stakeholders.
“This is also a step for the DENR in embarking towards being more than a regulatory [agency] but an activator of change,” Lopez said.
The Mindanao DENR Environment Summit was attended by about 4,000 stakeholders. The summit aimed to get them involved in the implementation of programs and projects of the department especially for the 6 regions in Mindanao.
During the summit, participants representing 6 provinces in Mindanao urged the DENR to protect, monitor, and control activities in protected areas. They also called for an end to open pit mining.
“We want sustainable agriculture not open pit mining for South Cotabato,” said a participant from South Cotabato.
Lopez made the participants pledge to protect the environment and turned over a copy of the State of the Mindanao Environment to Duterte. – Rappler.com