Duterte: 'Nothing I can do' about mining closures

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday, February 12, that there is "nothing" he can do over the closure of 23 mining operations, which had been ordered by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.

Duterte, speaking in Cebuano during a visit to residents of earthquake-hit Surigao City, said he saw firsthand the environmental destruction caused by mining operations.

"I told the governor there is nothing that I can do if Gina closes down mining companies. There is nothing that I can do because when I passed by the area, I really saw… Surigao City is the most-mined city. This place has the most mining spots... It even reached the mountains of Davao," the President said, according to the official English transcript from Malacañang.

"I think they will never be able to restore nature to what it was before. So I think I really will shut them all down," he also said.

Lopez had said that the closures will only be final once Duterte decides on the appeals of the mining companies. (READ: Confusion over the mining list: How did DENR decide on closure?)

But the environment chief maintained that it is illegal for a mine to operate inside watersheds. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Gina Lopez on mining company crackdown)

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III previously warned, however, that the mining closures could affect the livelihoods of more than 1.2 million people.

On Sunday, Duterte promised that the government would find new jobs for workers who would be affected.

"Now the problem here are the people who will lose their source of living," he said. "I will find a new source of income for you." (READ: After DENR's mining audit, what happens now?)

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) also estimated that roughly P66.6 billion in annual production and P16.7 billion in taxes would be lost.

But even with these numbers, Lopez is still more concerned about the damage of mining operations on communities. (READ: 'Corruption, gov't inefficiency' to blame for environmental destruction– Rappler.com