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Duterte backs open-pit mining ban but wants 'elbow room' for miners

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte still wants to eventually close all open-pit mining operations in the country but is open to giving miners “elbow room” to adjust for now.

During a press conference on Tuesday, September 5, in Taguig City, Duterte said he spoke with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu the previous day. He asked Cimatu to look at banning open-pit mining in the future. 

“Yesterday, I asked General Cimatu, who is the Secretary of the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources], to look into the eventual closure of the open-pit mining,” he said. 

His instructions come as the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, a DENR agency, proposed lifting the ban which was put in place by former environment chief Gina Lopez.

Lopez called for a press conference on Monday, September 4, appealing to Duterte to keep the ban.

Duterte said he agrees with Lopez that open-pit mining is bad, but wants to give mining companies a chance to adjust their operations to comply with environmental regulations. This suggests that the President is open to lifting the ban.

“I agree with Gina Lopez – that, that has to stop some time. But I’ll give the mining companies enough elbow room to make [inaudible]... on eventual change or the modality of getting what’s inside the bowels of the earth,” he said.

Cimatu has not responded to Rappler’s questions on what Duterte’s specific instructions to him were on Monday. That day, the President presided over a Cabinet meeting.

The President has consistently defended Lopez and her policies as DENR chief, at least, verbally. 

Yet despite his public support, Lopez’s appointment was still rejected by the Commission on Appointments, after intense lobbying by mining companies. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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