Duterte hints at mining ban after landslide claimed dozens of lives

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Rescue workers hunting for survivors, and President Duterte speaking at a press conference today.

As rescuers continue to search for landslide survivors, President Duterte has said it is again time for a serious look at mining practices.

The president made the remark today (Monday, September 17) the landslide caused by typhoon Ompong that hit a mining site in Itogon an left 34 people and 42 missing.

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He said: “That mining thing has really contributed a lot of heartaches for the Filipino people. It is time for us, particularly the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources], General Cimatu, to take a second look seriously now regarding the dangers of open pit mining.” The president was speaking at a command conference held to assess the Ompong damage in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR).

“Though I must admit that we earn about 70 billion a year. And if you’re ready to accept that as a good, as a profit, let us make it simple for the country, but in the end, how much do you lose in the process?” he asked.

The president said he would someday confront Congress to close the mining industry to “give the mother earth respite”.

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In a separate press conference today, Cimatu announced that he had ordered the suspension of all small-scale mining operations in CAR “to prevent further danger in lives of small-scale miners”.

Cimatu said the Army and police would deploy personnel “to effect this stoppage of all mining activities, especially here in Itogon”.

In the same press briefing, presidential spokesman Harry Roque assured that the national and local governments would not stop the search and rescue operations until all the missing people were accounted for.

“We will continue search and rescue efforts particularly in Itogon. We will not stop until everyone is accounted for,” he said.

Presidential adviser Francis Tolentino has said that the 12,000 miners likely to be affected by any suspension would get emergency employment and livelihood assistance.

Mining in president’s sights

In his third State of the Nation Address last July, the president warned the industry not to destroy the environment, saying environmental protection was one of his government’s priorities.

“To the mining industry, I say this once again and maybe for the last time, do not destroy the environment or compromise our resources; repair what you have mismanaged,” he said.

“Try to change management radically because this time, you will have restrictive policies – a prohibition of open-pit mining is one.”

During his visit to Ilocos Norte yesterday, the president again said he was “hell-bent” on stopping destructive mining.

“I pity my country. And if I do not decide really to stop it. Although we are earning 70 billion pesos in taxes in mining. But if you compare it with the destruction and on the long term, our children will suffer,” he said.

“It must stop. And if I cannot stop it during my time as president, nobody can. Because it’s big business and the pressure is just too great.”

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