Updated 23:55 PM PHT Sat, March 11, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Environment Secretary Gina Lopez may be getting flak for her mine closure orders, but President Rodrigo Duterte is standing firmly by her side.
In a speech at the inauguration of the PTV-4 Cordillera Hub in Baguio City, Duterte said he would rather listen to Lopez than get billions of pesos in revenue from the mining industry.
“All you contribute to the country is about ₱70 billion in taxes,” he said. “We can live without it. I would rather follow Gina. Maghanap-buhay na lang tayo ng iba [Let’s develop another industry], get the ₱70 billion somewhere else and preserve our environment.”
Duterte’s statement comes after Lopez was grilled Thursday at her second Commission on Appointments hearing.
Lopez’s opponents — who include mining companies, engineering students and indigenous people who work in the mining industry — said she lacked technical knowledge and preparation for the post.
Lopez ordered last month the closure of 23 mines for operating on or near watersheds. She said the mines contaminated coastal waters and destroyed watersheds.
Lopez also cancelled 75 mining contracts approved by her predecessors.
The mining industry vowed to fight Lopez in court, arguing her order would leave thousands jobless.
‘Look at her passion’
Although he isn’t open to completely banning mining, Duterte said people should listen to Lopez, especially in light of what he claimed was the destruction caused by the mining industry.
“If you have something in mind about Gina Lopez, kindly rethink and look at her passion,” he said.
“The problem is nakita ko ‘yung kalbo [I saw the bald mountains] and until now, malayo na ‘yang binutas ninyo diyan [you have dug deep there] because it’s an open pit,” he added. “Pagka-ganoon [In that case], I have to support Lopez and I cannot help you.”