Duterte to review closure of mines
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday night that he would review the decisions of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, as he acknowledged the controversy they have stirred up.
But Mr. Duterte said he was withholding judgment on Lopez, adding that there was nothing he could do about her decision if the companies involved were really destroying the environment.
Mining firms are up in arms over Lopez’s decision to order the closure of 23 mines and to scrap 75 mining contracts for covering watershed areas.
According to the President, there were administrative remedies that the mining firms could take.
“But I will, I will review. There’s such a thing as exhaustion, for the lawyers, exhaustion of administrative remedies. I will not judge her now,” he said in a speech during dinner with Philippine Military Academy alumni on Friday.
But if the companies were destroying the environment, there was nothing he could do.
“I will look at it. But if it’s in the wrong, there’s nothing I could do, if it’s destructive to the environment,” he said.
But Mr. Duterte also said he would take into account the revenue brought in by mining operations.
“We get something like P70 billion a year out of the mining operations in the entire Philippines. So we have to also take [that] into consideration,” he said.
Lopez earlier said she scrapped 75 mineral production sharing agreements because the projects were located in watershed areas.
On the other hand, the closure of 23 mines came after an audit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which found that they had engaged in indiscriminate mining and ruined watershed areas.
The mining companies had hit back on the closure orders, saying they had not been given copies of the audit results. They also warned that many Filipinos stand to lose their jobs.
In protesting the cancellation of the mining contracts, they raised the government’s responsibility to uphold contracts and follow due process.
The mining firms are also seeking to block Lopez’s confirmation as environment secretary before the Commission on Appointments.
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