PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday rejected the advocacy of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez to rid the country of all mining but he also scored mining companies for not doing enough to repair the damage they have done to the environment.
“Sabi ni ma’am, mine-free. Paano yan, ma’am [Ma’am said, mine-free. How can that be, ma’am], when there is a law? If there is a law about mining, then mining is allowed,” Duterte said during the launching of a government television station in Baguio City.
“The problem is, I saw the denuded mountains and there are still large holes because of open pit mining. If that is the case, I cannot help you. All you can contribute to society is P70 billion in taxes. We can live without it.
“Better if I just listen to Gina. Let’s just look for the P70 billion from somewhere else and preserve our environment,” he added, scoring mining companies for failing to repair the damage that their operations have done to the environment.
“How many years have you been there. Up to now, I cannot seen any greenery. What I want is that you put wood there and not just leave it like this. You just cannot say, let’s go to court, that’s legal. No, we are here. We, I begin and end my term in the altar of public interest,” Duterte said.
Duterte made the remarks after the Commission on Appointments bypassed Lopez’s appointment ahead of a meeting on Tuesday when they can decide to reject her appointment amid the objections of 20 groups who claim Lopez lacks competence, imposes her personal biases and insists on rules that are not in the law.
If Lopez is rejected by the CA on Tuesday, Duterte has said he is ready to make a new appointment but if they just bypass her, Duterte can again reappoint Lopez ad interim.
“The President hasn’t mentioned anything yet. Nothing official,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in an interview over state radio dzRB earlier Saturday. “There are varied opinions and they have to be weighed.”
“We understand where are the lawmakers are coming from, and the critics of course,” Abella said. “There are some who are saying that mining doesn’t give too much [to the economy] but that’s their opinion.”
During hearings on her appointment, members of the CA chided her for imposing her own standards on mining companies, even though they complied with international standards such as ISO 14001.
Some members of the CA also questioned her order to close or suspend 28 mining companies and to cancel 75 mineral production and sharing agreements without going through due process.
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