MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said that if it were up to him, he would seek an end to all mining practices in the country, following a landslide in the north which buried miners and their families.
“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], to take a second look, seriously now, regarding the dangers of open-pit mining,” Duterte said in a situation briefing in La Trinidad, Benguet on Monday evening.
“Never mind the P70 billion [in revenues]. But of course the finance people will object.”
The President issued this statement as the death toll in the Cordilleras in the wake of typhoon Ompong’s onslaught reached 54 on Monday.
This death toll could still rise as 42 people from the mining town of Itogon remain missing. The town's mayor, Victor Palangdan, fears those still missing are already dead.
Palangdan said some of the fatalities opted to stay in their bunkhouses and a chapel near the mining site, leaving them helpless when a landslide occurred at the height of the typhoon’s onslaught.
“Who’s to blame? One, of course is the inroads of civilization and the fact that mining has been operating in this country uncontrolled,” Duterte said.
“What’s being done here is being replicated in large areas of Mindanao, especially Surigao, Davao del Norte and Oriental.”
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered a stop to all small-scale mining activities in the Cordillera Administrative Region.
Cimatu saId he is also revoking the temporary permits given to some 10 mining associations operating in so-called “Minahang Bayan.”
Following Cimatu’s order, Palangdan sought a technical conference with the DENR, saying some small-time firms follow mining laws but are unable to secure permits.
“There are small-scale miners that are following the laws, only the fact that they cannot get license or permit because of the provisions under our Small Scale Mining Act that you cannot apply for a permit if that big mining company will not issue you a permit. That should be amended in Congress po,” Palangdan said.