Duterte to mining companies: Restore mining areas or 'be taxed to death'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 24) — President Rodrigo Duterte addressed mining companies on Monday who he said were responsble for the destruction of the environment in areas such as Diwalwal in Compostela Valley.

"You have to come up with a substitute, either spend to restore the virginity of their source or I will tax you to death," he said during his State of the Nation Address.

Duterte said apart from environmental degradation, mining operations have also contributed to the economic decline of communities near mines.

"Ang palayan tumuyo at ang soil nag-crack [Rice fields have dried up and the soil has cracked]. So the farmers cannot eat anymore. They are reduced to the garbage of what you can get there, salvage anything and sell it to the scrap. Ganun ang nangyari sa Pilipino [That is what happened to Filipinos]," he said.

Rivers, Duterte said, have also dried up, leaving farmers with no source of protein as they could not even hunt.

Duterte said he would be willing to show detractors the horrors of mining.

"Punta tayo doon sa [We will go to] Diwalwal...and I will show you the river. Up there at the source, it's so pristine. But doon sa [But there] - right at the start of the boundary where the millings are started, the water there is not clear, it is not brown, it is black," he said.

Duterte called out players in the mining industry, telling them to stop "the unbridled and irresponsible destruction of our watersheds, forests, and aquatic resources."

The President said despite the revenues the government reaps from the industry - around P70 billion a year, five percent of what mining companies earn - he said the amount was negligible because they "have considerably neglected your responsibility to protect and preserve (the) environment for posterity."

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Duterte: We are a rich country

Duterte said the country was endowed with riches, gifts from God which should be used for the benefit of all Filipinos.

He said, "I do not believe that this gift was given to us to be merely viewed or appreciated, but to be extracted from the earth and utilized to make life worth living."

Duterte said extracting these riches was not enough. What is important, he said, would be to convert it into raw material to be used for products "for international and local purposes."

Duterte made a call to industrialists and businessmen to put up factories so that raw materials could be processed in the country.

The President also expresed his wish to stop the export of mineral resources mined locally for processing overseas.

Duterte said we buy back products made from these raw materials at twice or even thrice the price paid by companies who source the ingredients from us.

He warned, however, against reckless extraction of mineral resources.

"Responsible, regulated and sustainable development is what we advocate and require. The protection of the environment must be made a priority [applause] ahead of mining and all other activities that adversely affect one way or another," he said.

The President added this policy was "non-negotiable."

Duterte said mining companies should be held responsible "for the full and quick clean-up, restoration [and] rehabilitation of all areas damaged by mining activities."

Added to this, the President said they should extend "all necessary support to the communities that have suffered mining's disastrous effects on their health, livelihood, and environment, among others."