Duterte stands by Lopez even if gov’t risks losing mining revenue
Updated: 9:27 p.m., March 11, 2017
BAGUIO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday he would be willing to lose billions in profit from the mining industry as he would continue backing Environment Secreatry Regina “Gina” Lopez in her anti-mining stance.
“I have to support Lopez and I cannot help you,” Duterte said in a speech during the inauguration here of the Cordillera hub of People’s Television Network (PTV).
The President said mining companies contributed about P70 billion a year to government funds. But said he was willing to forego the revenue.
“Let me just add that all you contribute to the country is about 70 billion in taxes. We can live without it,” he said.
The President said he would rather “follow Gina” and find other funding sources.
“I’ll get the 70 billion from somewhere else and preserve the environment,” he said.
The chief executive issued these statements after Lopez received a barrage of criticisms during her confirmation hearng on Thursday at the powerful Commission on Appointments.
The CA’s committee on environment, deliberating on Lopez’s appointment, terminated its hearing without acting on her nomination. Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the committee would hold an executive session on Tuesday and possibly come up with a decision.
“If you have something against Gina Lopez, kindly rethink. Look at her passion,” Duterte said, addressing critics of Lopez.
Duterte defefnded Lopez, saying the environment secretary was not interested in the money of mining firms.
“She’s not interested in their money and she is just doing it like what a Cabinet member should do,” he said.
Do it right
Citing the existences of mining laws, Duterte said the government would not close mines as long as they could it “in accordance with the law.”
“Well, we do not intend to close the mining industry. It’s really impossible because there is a law governing the operations of mining,” he said. “Kapag may batas, ibig sabihin you allow it (If there’s a law, it means you allow it).”
He defended Lopez against her critics, saying she was just “imposing the rules and regulations.”
“So I am with Gina because I want to protect the Filipino people,” he said. “It’s always public interest. Period. No matter who gets hurt. And that is what Gina is doing.”
Government ready to assist workers
Duterte said the government would help workers affected by the mine closure orders.
“Magtiis-tiis lang kayo (Hold on for awhile),” he said. “But we are ready to extend financial help to those who are displaced sa tempory closure.”
But the President also urged mining firms to do the same.
“Billion billion na ang kinita niyo sa bayan (You have already earned billions in the country),” he said. “You better release some of your profits in the previous years and give it tot the workers.”
If mining firms won’t comply, he threatened that he would join Lopez and “permanently” close them.
He said it was not enough for mining firms to stop operations after they had fttened their pockets from mining activities.
He said he was doing this because he would want to protect the Filipino people. /atm
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.