PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday threatened to impose higher taxes on mining companies or shut them down if they fail to come up with ways to compensate the country for the damage they do to the environment.
In his second State of the Nation Address, Duterte said extreme care should be exercised to avoid needlessly harming the environment.
“I will increase their taxes. I think of something that will compensate or will make up for this environmental damage or otherwise, we will stop mining. That’s not good,” the President said.
Duterte also called on local government units to ensure mining companies complied with environmental laws and urged them to declare their exact incomes to the Finance Department—saying that he would shut them down if they did not.
Duterte also said he would stop the extraction and exportation of unprocessed mineral resources to other countries.
“If possible, we shall put a stop to the extraction and exportation of our mineral resources to foreign nations for processing abroad and importing them back to the Philippines in the form of consumer goods at prices twice or thrice the value of the original raw materials foreign corporations pay for them,” he said.
The President said he was not anti-mining, but warned the industry that it would be held responsible for the full and quick cleanup of mined areas.
“I am warning 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… [the]environment for posterity,” Duterte said.
“I am holding all mining companies and their officials responsible for the full and quick cleanup, restoration [and] rehabilitation of all areas damaged by mining activities, and the extension of all necessary support to the communities that have suffered mining’s disastrous effects on their health, livelihood, and environment,” he said.
Duterte earlier vowed to resolve concerns raised by different stakeholders but said the mining industry cannot be outright phased out because there is a law regulating its operations.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu earlier said his department expects to release by the end of July the results of an assessment of an appeal by mining companies shut down by his predecessor, Regina Lopez.
Lopez earlier ordered a review on the operations of all operating metallic mines in the country. Following the audit, she announced that 23 mining operations would be closed and five more would be suspended. Twelve mining companies passed the audit.
Lopez then announced that the government would cancel the mining contracts of 75 mining projects which were found within or near watersheds. She also ordered a ban on prospective open-pit mines.
Mining companies questioned the decision and filed an appeal with the Environment Department. Some companies also opted to file their appeal with the Office of the President.
In the same speech, Duterte called on industrialists to convert raw materials from mines to finished products so that Filipinos could benefit.
“That is why I say that it is not enough that we mine this wealth. What is more important is that we convert the raw material thereof into finished products for international and local purposes. That way, it will not only be the few who are the rich but also the poor who are many who will benefit,” he said.