Duterte stops mining on Tawi-Tawi island
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered all mining operations stopped on a small island in Tawi-Tawi whose environment has been “completely devastated,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Tuesday.
In a press briefing, Nograles said the President gave the order for the suspension of mining on Tumbagaan Island off Languyan town during the Cabinet meeting on Monday.
“The President is very much concerned about reports that the island has been completely devastated as a result of mining operations in the area. The island has at this point, been mined out. And while rehabilitation efforts are underway, the President is issuing a directive to stop any and all mining in Tumbagaan Island, and to step up the rehabilitation of the area by planting more trees and other efforts of rehabilitation,” Nograles said.
He, however, did not identify the mining company responsible for the environmental devastation. A Google satellite map of Tumbagaan showed the island had lost most of its vegetation while much of its terrain was marred by what appeared to be mining trails.
Environmental groups on Tuesday welcomed President Duterte’s order and called for a new round of industrywide audit of all mining operations across the country.
Gold mining projects
While details surrounding the operations in the southern province remain unclear, Alyansa Tigil Mina said it had monitored gold mining projects in the province as early as 2016. Tawi-Tawi is also known for its high-grade nickel ore.
“We demand that the stoppage order be immediately implemented, an audit of the mine operations be done and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau disclose all documents related to the mine contract and mine operations,” Jaybee Garganera, the group’s national coordinator, said in an interview.
He said concerns surrounding the mines in Tawi-Tawi had reached his group way back in 2015. The operations there, however, were allegedly not included during the industrywide audit in 2016 under then Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said the President’s directive should be fairly applied across the country.
“At least 68 percent of operating large-scale mines were found to have perpetrated various violations during the industrywide audit of former environment secretary Gina Lopez,” Leon Dulce, the group’s national coordinator, told the Inquirer.
“All these should be closed for good,” he added.
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