Duterte to impose 'restrictive' rules vs. mining companies harming the environment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 23) — President Rodrigo Duterte issued a final warning to mining companies to cease operations that are causing harm to the environment.

In his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, the President said restrictions will be strongly enforced to protect the country's natural resources, including the prohibition of open-pit mining.

"To the mining industry, I say this once again and maybe for the last time, do not destroy the environment or compromise our resources; repair what you have mismanaged. Try to change [your] management radically because this time you will have restrictive policies," he said. "The prohibition of open-pit mining is one."

Duterte stressed that the protection of the environment remains a top priority of the government, to ensure that the use of the country's resources will be beneficial to all people.

"My policy in the utilization of these resources is non-negotiable: the protection of the environment must be top priority and extracted resources must be used for the benefit of the Filipino people, [applause] not just a select few," he said.

Chamber of Mines of the Philippines Executive Director Ronald Recidoro immediately responded to the President's warning, inviting him to discuss "responsible miners," who adhere to his orders.

"There are many responsible miners in the country...We hope to be able to invite the President to visit one of our mines to show him how we are complying with his instructions," Recidoro said.

Nevertheless, their organization will comply, Recidoro said, and assured that proper restorative measures are being undertaken to compensate for the damages caused by mining operations.

"All I can say is, we in the Chamber are listening, and will do our utmost to comply with the President's directive to protect the environment and give the Filipino people their due," the director said. "Already, our members are embarking on accelerated re-greening programs to limit disturbed areas within their mine sites to the utmost minimum, while increasing the areas that are covered by trees and vegetation."

Duterte previously reprimanded mining companies and ordered them to plant trees wherever they excavate. He mulled the possibility of a total mining ban for 2019 following reports of damages caused by irresponsible mining practices.

The President earlier said he was standing by former environment secretary Gina Lopez, who closed down 23 mining sites and cancelled 75 mining contracts.

READ: Duterte considering total mining ban