MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday warned mining companies that he would tax them "to death" unless they restore the "virginity" of exploited areas.
Duterte said he would use revenue from mining taxes to help host communities that were left "in agony."
"You have to come up with a substitute, either spend to restore the virginity of the source or I will tax you to death," Duterte said in his annual address to Congress.
Duterte said former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez showed mining communities a "clear picture of what was happening horrendously" in mining areas.
He also offered a "salute" to ABS-CBN anchor Ted Failon whose program, Failon Ngayon, showed the ill effects of mining on the environment in a recent episode.
"I am holding all mining companies and its officials responsible for the full and quick clean up restoration rehabilitation of all areas damaged by mining activities and extension of all necessary support to the communities that have suffered mining's disastrous effects to the health among others," he said.
The President told mining firms to stop destroying watersheds, forests and aquatic resources.
"The protection of the environment must be made a priority ahead of mining and all other activities that adversely affect one way or another and this policy is non-negotiable," he said.
Mining companies should also declare their correct income and pay all taxes.
Reacting to Duterte's statements, the Chamber of Mines said it supports the President's push for responsible mining.
"We share the President's frustration against illegal mining practices and support his desire for mining companies to be responsible in paying taxes and as stewards of the environment," the group said in a statement.
Manolo Quezon III, meanwhile, believes Duterte's warning to mining companies is his way of reasserting his power over the House of Representatives.
"The president lost popularity when it looked like it was Congress dictating on him by failing to approve Gina Lopez [as DENR chief] because that was really a hatchet job by Congress. So the president had to prove that he's... so he reasserted... That was an insult to Congress and a threat to Congress and even his allies in Congress, saying 'Natamaan ako dahil sa inyo. All of you guys who think you are celebrating now, I'm raising the ante again.'," he explained.
Quezon also believes this is how Duterte maintains the support he receives from people.
"You can look at so many constituencies, not all of whom would have been approving of the president in the past. All of a sudden, if you're an environmentalist, what are you going to do? If you're a feminist, what are you going to do? If you're for education, all so many things, and that's how a good politician marshals support," he added.