PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday accused some mining firms of financing what he called a “destabilization” plot against his administration.
Speaking to reporters in Malacañang, the President said mining firms, which he did not name, were funding the political opposition to undermine his government.
“Kayong mga mining [You miners], I know you are funding the opposite side. I know that some of you are giving funding to the other side to destabilize me,” Duterte said during a joint press conference with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
“If the police and military will allow it, it’s their problem,” the President added.
Duterte made the statement as he defended anew Environment Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez for ordering the closure of mining firms found to have violated mining regulations.
On Saturday, the President said he was willing to lose P70 billion in mining tax revenues, as he reiterated his support to the anti-mining position of Lopez.
Showing photos of the ill effects of destructive mining, Duterte slammed mining companies that had failed to follow regulations.
“Look at what mining does to our country. Is Gina a liar? No, I don’t [think so]. It’s difficult. [The environment was once] green. So where are the trees that God gave us? Where’s the environment that God gave us?” he said.
“How can you argue with what Gina is presenting to you—a visual thing?” he added. “We have to talk with the mining people…Explain to me bakit ganito [why].”
As he talked about the violations of mining firms, Duterte dropped the names of CitiNickel Mines and Development Corp., OceanaGold and Benguet Nickel Mines, among others.
The President also said he was considering a total mining ban “in the meantime.”
“Maybe it would be worth the while for Gina to reimpose the ban. Total [mining ban]muna tayo, tapos mag-usap [then we talk]. Dito magprangka-prangkahan tayo [Let’s be frank with each other],” he said.
Duterte said there was “no redeeming factor” for him to favor erring mining companies and give up Lopez, an environmental activist, as Environment secretary.
“What can the degradation of environment do to us? What can your P70 billion do with the government? Nothing… Give me a redeeming, something I can hang on to drop Gina. No redeeming factor,” he said.
Duterte on Friday cursed at mining firms for environmental destruction as he backed anew Lopez’s stance against illegal mining.
In his speech during the launch of People’s Television Network’s Cordillera Hub, the President said he would rather support Lopez than condone environmental abuse, even at the cost of billions of pesos in tax revenues.
“There is a law. If there is a law about mining, then mining is allowed. The problem is I saw the denuded mountains…the hole you dug has gone too deep, because it’s an open pit. If that’s the case, I have to support Lopez. And I cannot help you,” the President said, addressing himself to miners and speaking in a city whose sources of livelihood include mining.
“Let me just add that all you contribute to the country is about P70 billion in taxes. We can live without it. I would rather follow Gina…We’ll get the P70 billion somewhere else and preserve our environment,” he said.