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Duterte: PH can live without mining

/ 12:31 AM August 02, 2016

THE PHILIPPINES can survive without revenue from mining companies, President Duterte said on Monday as he warned the firms to strictly follow environmental rules and regulations or face closure.

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Mr. Duterte said mining companies contributed about P40 billion a year to government coffers, but declared that he was willing to forego the revenue if they did not shape up.

“You obey or we will survive as a nation without you,” Mr. Duterte told a media briefing where he fielded questions from the Malacañang Press Corps for the first time.

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“I can forego the P40 billion I collect from you guys and the Filipinos will survive without you. Either you follow strictly government standards or you close down,” he said.

It was the boldest statement yet from Mr. Duterte against domestic miners whom he warned  before he took office on June 30 to “shape up” and to “stop spoiling the land.”

7 suspended

The government has so far suspended the operations of seven domestic nickel mines for failure to comply with environmental regulations.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who began an audit of all mining sites on July 8, last week vowed to close more mining operations as public complaints mounted against those causing environmental destruction.

 Leave Gina alone

Mr. Duterte also told mining companies not to attack  Lopez through publicity, and described her as a bright person and a crusader.

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“You try to castigate Gina Lopez for being strict and yet you destroy the land, destroy the soil. And then you get rich from it,” he said.

Lopez has been tussling with business groups over her statements critical of the mining industry. She had said that mining had not lifted people from poverty, but that it had contributed to the poisoning of waterways and agricultural lands.

Mr. Duterte noted that mining companies, such as Marcopper, had yet to clean up the mess they had made.

“I will not allow it,” he said.

He also warned that he would look for all mining pits without licenses and order the military and the police to close them.

 ‘Stuff you in hole’

“If you will not follow, I will stuff you in that hole and cover you up. You want to try it, fine, let’s do it,” he said.

As the companies bore holes in the earth, landslides occurred, he said.

“And then you will say mining is a critical component of the Philippine economy. Of course it is. It’s income. But you are also causing critical damage,” he said.

Some mining executives, however,  said the sector was being unfairly targeted.

“The industry is using less than 20,000 hectares out of the 30 million hectares comprising the total land area of the Philippines,” said Dante Bravo, president of Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc., the Philippines’ second biggest nickel ore

miner.

“And we are contributing so much to the national economy and local development. So I think we should be treated fairly,” Bravo told Reuters.

The Philippines is the biggest supplier of nickel ore to top consumer China, taking over from Indonesia after that country banned shipments of unprocessed mineral ore in 2014.

Mining contributes less than 1 percent to the Philippine economy, with a large chunk of minerals from gold to copper and nickel remaining untapped, according to the  Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Of the 9 million hectares identified as having high mineral reserves, only 3 percent is being mined, according to the MGB.

The suspension of nickel mines in the Philippines and the risk of more closures lifted global nickel prices to an 11-month high of $10,900 a ton on July 21. It peaked at $10,800 on Monday after rising nearly 13 percent in July, the biggest monthly gain since April 2014.

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