Environmentalists welcome Duterte’s warning vs abusive miners

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 July) – Environmentalists here welcome President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s stern warning against abusive mining companies and supported his call issued Monday to legislators to pass the National Land Use Act.

These small islands off the shore of Claver town in Surigao del Sur used to have white sand beaches around them, but not anymore, no thanks to mining. MindaNews file photo by ERWIN MASCARIÑAS

Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) acting executive director Chinkie Pelino-Golle told MindaNews Tuesday that the pronouncements of the President concerning the environment are a welcome development.

“This is the first time I heard him issue strong statements addressed to the investors, government agencies and local government units,” she said.

Golle said she was happy Duterte recognized the destructions caused by extractive industries, like mining, to the environment and to local communities.

“His statements are strong and it somehow renewed my hope and faith in the government for making the environment a priority. It is really needed though,” she said.

Golle said she hopes the mining firms, government agencies, and LGUs will be responsible, accountable, and act appropriately to the concerns raised by the President who mandated them “to give extreme care for the environment.”

During his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte issued a stern warning to all mining operators and contractors to refrain from the “unbridled and irresponsible destruction of our watersheds, forests, and marine and aquatic resources. “

“You have gained much from mining and we only get about 70 billion [pesos] a year, but you have considerably neglected your responsibility to protect and preserve the environment for posterity,” the President said.

He ordered mining companies and its officials responsible for the full and quick cleanup, restoration and rehabilitation of all areas damaged by mining activities, and the extension of all necessary support to the communities that have suffered mining’s disastrous effects on their health, livelihood, and environment, among others.

“You see the palayan… ang palayan tumuyo at ang soil nag-crack. So the farmers cannot eat anymore. They are reduced to the garbage of what you can get there, salvage anything and sell it to the scraps. Iyon ang nangyari sa Pilipino…hindi ko kayo kalaban. As a matter of fact, you give government almost 70 billion; pero actually maliit lang ‘yan. Ngayon nakikita ninyo itong mga palayan na tumutuyo, and the rivers…wala nang isda. The only source of protein. Hindi ka naman puwedeng mag-hunting, may makita kang eagle diyan barilin mo, preso ka,” Duterte said.

Golle added that they also support the pronouncement of the President calling on Congress to pass the National Land Use Act in order to rationalize and sustainably manage the resources relative to climate change adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Management.

“We are also hopeful that those areas and communities affected by mining will be rehabilitated and restored and for the communities to be extended with support and assistance,” she said.

Duterte appealed to Congress to immediately pass the National Land Use Act to ensure “the rational and sustainable use of our land and other physical resources, given the competing needs of food security, housing, businesses and environmental conservation.”

“Ours is a rich country. The natural wealth that this country is endowed which is a gift from God to be utilized for the people’s welfare and the common good. I do not believe that this gift was given to us to be merely viewed or appreciated, but to be extracted from the earth and utilized to make life worth living,” he said.

He also encouraged industrialists, investors and commercial barons to establish factories and manufacturing establishments to process raw materials into finished products.

“That is why I say that it is not enough that we mine this wealth. What is more important is that we convert the raw material thereof into finished products for international and local economic purposes. That way, it will not only be the few who are the rich but also the poor who are many who will benefit therefrom,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)