President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday said there is nothing he can do if Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez insists on the closure of mining operations in the country.
During his visit to the residents of Surigao, the President said he was disappointed by the sight of bare mountains and destroyed coastlines.
“There is nothing I can do because when I passed by the area (during a flyby), I really saw that Surigao City is the most-mined city,” Duterte said.
“If she [Sec. Lopez] says that the mines should be closed, then I can do nothing about it,” he added.
The President already told Surigao del Norte governor Sol Matugas to prepare for possible job losses in the region.
“I think they will never be able to restore nature to what it was before. So I think I really will shut them all down,” the President said.
In CARAGA alone, 300,000 individuals stand to lose their jobs. The region is the country’s biggest mining sector with 24 active gold and nickel mine sites.
Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III previously said the mining closures will affect 1.2 million people.
Duterte promised employment for workers who will be affected by the closures, saying, “I will fund a new source of income for you.”
Lopez previously said the closures will be final once Duterte passes judgment on the appeals sent by the mining companies.
The President said he will keep an open mind on the 14 large-scale nickel mine sites that Lopez has ordered closed. He said he will make his decisions when the companies “are unable to restore the mountains back to their original state.”
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said that the government stands to lose P66.6 billion in annual production and P16.7 billion in taxes.
Local governments that host mining operations have a 40-percent share in the two-percent excise tax that mining companies pay from their regulatory fees, business and real property taxes, and gross revenues.
Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-Caraga) show that from 2013 to 2015, revenues from excises taxes in Surigao and Agusan provinces were P2.1 billion.