Gina Lopez to mining investors: Go away!

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 08 2017 03:27 PM | Updated as of Sep 08 2017 03:49 PM

MANILA - Former environment secretary Gina Lopez on Friday urged mining companies looking to do business in the country to just go away, as miners concluded their annual showcase for investors.

Lopez, a long-time green activist, had continued to speak out against the destructive effects of mining even after her government stint ended last May.

"To the miners and people who want to come here and rape the country, and put holes here, and kill our rivers and streams, read my lips: Go away!" Lopez said.

"There's investors from all over the world that are coming here to invest in mines. I was really worried that they would lift the mining ban. I wanted to make sure it doesn't happen," she said.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau had said it was studying whether to lift a ban on open-pit mining that Lopez imposed while she was in office.

President Rodrigo Duterte this week backed Lopez's stand on open-pit mining, saying the practice had to stop at some point.

Lopez said the Philippines is the only country in the planet that gives a 7-year tax holiday.

"We're the only one. Come and rape us and you don't have to pay taxes for 7 years. We're the only one that gives 82 percent of net income. It’s crazy," she said.

She added, "If you count the destructions to our natural resources and the monetary benefits of taxes it doesn't add up. We come out losing to the hundreds of millions. But, open pit is the worst of the very worst."

Lopez said she got nervous about the possibility that the open-pit ban would be lifted.

"I want to create an unfriendly environment to the lifting of the ban by putting very clearly what open pit mining is to this country," she said.

She also described as "pathetic" the mining history in the country and that in all open-pit operations, it is the people who suffer.

"Open pits will be there forever. It will be a financial liability to the government because they need to be detox everyday and if you don't detox them, they will get acidic and when they get acidic, they spill over into the rivers and streams so the ones taking the risks are the people there," she explained.

The President had earlier warned the mining industry to "restore the virginity" of mining areas or "I will tax you to death."

"He just wants to do the right thing," Lopez said of the President. "But if they do it, say the lifting of the ban, they will do in the full glare of the public's spotlight. Are they ready for that?"

She also cautioned mining companies who don't care about the people that raping a place and endangering the lives of people is "killing your own soul".

"Now, if you want to come here and do ecotourism and do agriculture and help our farmers, you can call me up. I'll be your friend," she said.