Duterte to hold dialogue with pro and anti-mining advocates

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) —  President Rodrigo Duterte will call to a dialogue supporters and anti-mining advocates to discuss destructive operations of mining companies in the country.

The President also disclosed plans of pushing for a new measure on the mining industry.

“But you know, I’d like to tell you frankly. We would come up with a new legislation, because  Bebot Alvarez, the Speaker, hates mining. And he comes from a mining town,” Duterte told business executives attending the Davao Investment Conference at the SMX Convention Center Davao Friday.

Duterte said the meeting will gather pro-mining advocates and environmentalists like former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and militant groups and is intended “to rearrange everything” in the mining industry.

One of the oldest nickel mining companies in Surigao – Taganito Mining Corporation – operates in the mountains of Claver, Surigao del Norte, as can be seen in in the background in this photograph taken Monday (20 February 2017). The subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corporation has been in business for decades, causing the water bodies nearby to turn rusty-red with laterites. It is not among the 14 erring mining firms in the Caraga Region ordered closed by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez as it is reportedly among those who passed the audit. MindaNews photo by Roel N. Catoto

“Ganito yan eh, nakikita ninyo iyong tailings, nakikita ninyo (it’s like this. You have seen the tailings, you can see) how the siltation has affected the waters and the seas, I do not have to convince you. You were there operating and you know that the rivers are already heavily—not a river anymore, but an egress of some of the waters coming in from the mountain. It’s not a river,” he said.

Duterte said he would show the mining companies the ill effects of their operations on the rivers where the livelihood of several Filipino farmers are dependent on.

He said he will show the slides of mining gone awry, how siltation has affected the livelihood of fisherfolk. He said the cheapest commodity is fish which can grow in the river, fish pens. Mining has also affected the livelihood of farmers whose rice farms have gone dry.

The President said he could not turn a blind eye on the plight of the ordinary farmers and fisherfolk who suffer from the damage mining firms have brought to their communities and complained how measly the government earns from their taxes.

“And so, what am I supposed to do? Just leave it that way because the mining industry pays government something like 70 billion a year? Five percent lang ang tax ko. Papaano iyan? Papaano yunng mga tao na hindi kasali sa corporate world? Not connected with your business? What will happen to them? Inadequate food. Cannot grow anything anymore at they are suffering,” he said.

Duterte noted that mining is good business for the business sector because taxes are low. “Why don’t you compensate the people that are deprived now of the things that they need (but are) not there because of mining.”

The exploration, development, utilization and processing of all mineral resources in the mining industry is governed by RA 7942, an “Act instituting a new system of mineral resources, development, utilization, and conservation” or the Mining Act of 1995.

Various groups have been pushing for amendments to the Mining Act. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)