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MANILA, Philippines – Former environment secretary Gina Lopez may be out of government but President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, July 12, appeared raring to continue some of her mining reforms.
Addressing the anniversary of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Quezon City on Wednesday, the President warned mining companies that he will order them to compensate farmers and fishpond owners whose livelihood suffer from their operations.
“Kung gusto ninyo, kayong mga mayaman, bayaran ninyo sila sa perdition nila (If you want, you rich people, pay them for their perdition),” said Duterte.
“So if he has lost P100,000 a hectare, tutal mayaman ‘yang mining, bayaran mo, tapos taniman mo (since the mining sector is rich, they should pay him, then plant trees on his land),” said Duterte.
The President said the “mining impasse” is one problem he needs to solve after the Marawi crisis is over.
He is convinced of the destructive nature of mining as an industry and its disastrous impact on farmers and fishpond owners.
“Sirain mo 'yung palayan, paano sila makasu-survive? Ikaw, sige ka diyan, kutkot nang kutkot (You destroy their farmland, how will they survive? You go ahead there digging up the land)," he said.
One day, he said, he would call mining company representatives and those affected by mining operations into a dialogue.
“So one of these days, I’ll call the rich and the poor. You just listen. You’re human, what do you think of this?” he said.
“There are so many injustices here that we have to correct but just give me time,” he added.
Duterte also made colorful threats to impress upon miners that they should repair environmental damage wrought by their operations.
“Ngayon ‘pag hindi mo taniman ng kahoy, ‘yang ulo ninyo putulin ko, ‘yan ang itanim ko doon (Now if you don't plant trees, I'll chop off your head and I'll plant it there instead),” he warned.
Critics had scored Duterte for supposedly not persuading his allies in Congress to confirm the appointment of Lopez as environment chief, saying it betrayed the Chief Executive's vaunted stance against mining.
Duterte installed former military chief Roy Cimatu as environment chief, and directed him to "just do your duty, do it right, and always do it for the country."
Whether or not Cimatu will continue Lopez’ reforms in the mining sector – including an audit that led to the suspension of 23 mining operations – is among the biggest uncertainties in the environment sector as the Duterte administration enters its second year.
Cimatu has sought to allay concerns that he would reverse Lopez's reforms at the department, but on July 3, he reaped criticism for suspending an administrative order of his predecessor mandating that only the DENR secretary can approve Environmental Compliance Certificates for environmentally-critical projects or projects within environmentally-critical areas.
Cimatu’s suspension allows the Environmental Management Bureau director and regional directors to make the approvals in order to speed up the ECC process.
He said this was partly a bid to make the process “more investor-friendly.” – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.