Duterte warns miners: Spend on rehab 'or I'll tax you to death'

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 24, warned mining companies of steep taxes if they do not spend enough on the rehabilitation of areas that host their operations.

Duterte gave the warning in his  second State of the Nation Address as he reiterated his bid to ensure responsible mining operations in the country.

"Mayaman na kayo (You are already rich), mining companies," the President said as he went off-script in his SONA.

"Either I will raise the taxes, ang kita niyan i-reserve ko (what I get there I will reserve) to compensate for those who are suffering. You have to come up with a substitute; either spend to restore the virginity of their source or I will tax you to death. Kasi 'yung taxes makuha ko talagang ibubuhos ko (Because the taxes I will get, I will really use it)," he added.

Even with the Commission on Appointment's rejection of his first environment secretary, Gina Lopez, Duterte has continued to call out mining companies for the damage of their operations on the environment. (READ: Duterte wants miners to pay for damage to farms, fishponds)

His speech on Monday was no different: he "sternly warned" all mining operations and contractors "to refrain from the unbridled and irresponsible destruction of our watersheds, forests, and aquatic resources."

"You have gained much from mining, we only get about P70 billion a year, but you have considerably neglected your responsibility to protect and preserve, and even the tax is about 5%," Duterte said.

He said he is holding all mining companies and mining officials responsible for the "full and quick clean-up, restoration, and rehabilitation" of areas damaged by mining activities.

The President also wants them to extend all necessary support to communities who have suffered from mining operations.

"You know, you have the mining, I have to grant you a mining [permit] because you have complied with all the requirements of the law. I'd be subject to a mandamus if everything is perfect and you have every right to mine. But in doing so, you destroy the rivers, you destroy the streams from which the poor people fish," the President said.

He went on to briefly talk about an ABS-CBN report that looked into the adverse effects of mining on the environment.

"You see the palayan, ang palayan tumuyo at ang soil nag-crack, so the farmers cannot eat anymore, they are reduced to the garbage of what you can get there, salvage anything, and sell it. Ganoon ang nangyari sa Pilipino," Duterte said.

(You see the rice fields, the rice fields went dry, the soil cracked, so the farmers cannot eat anymore, they are reduced to the garbage of what you can get there, salvage anything, and sell it. That's what happened to the Filipino.)

The President also mentioned his friends and classmates who are into mining, and how they would talk about "the damage that you have caused." (READ: Duterte to consult miners, Gina Lopez to 'rearrange' mining)

Later in his speech, Duterte urged mining companies to think of the future generations affected by their operations.

"So I will increase the taxes, then I will think of something that will compensate or make up for the damage, or at least the income restored. Otherwise, I'll have to stop mining. I'll ask you to stop it. It's not good. We are a small group of islands," he said.

The President then appealed to players in the mining sector to declare their correct income and pay their correct taxes. He also directed employees, officials, and local government units in charge of monitoring mining operations to "do your job without fear or favor."

"I mean it. Do not try to test my resolve. Absolutely I have nothing to lose except my life," he added. – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.