“Either you follow strictly government standard or you close down.”
Those were the strong words of President Rodrigo Duterte to mining companies on Monday, warning them to follow environmental government rules or face a shutdown, saying that the country can survive without the mining industry.
“We will survive as a nation without you,” President Duterte said in a media briefing on Monday.
Since the beginning of his term, seven domestic nickel mines have been suspended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) headed by Secretary Regina Lopez for failure to comply with environmental regulations.
“You try to castigate Gina Lopez for being strict, and yet you destroy the land, destroy the soil, and then you get rich,” Duterte said.
He added that he can forgo the P40 billion peso yearly government revenue from the mining industry.
The Philippines is the biggest supplier of nickel ore in China, overtaking Indonesia in 2014 after they banned shipments of unprocessed mineral ores.
However, some mining executives said that the sector is unfairly targeted.
“The industry is using less than 20,000 hectares out of the 30 million hectares comprising the total land area in the Philippines,” Dante Bravo, president of Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, the Philippines’ second-biggest nickel ore miner.
“And we are contributing so much to the national economy and local development. So, I think we should be treated fairly,” Bravo told Reuters.
Data from the Mining and Geosciences Bureau said that mining contributes to one percent to the economy, with still a large chunk of minerals of gold, copper and nickel still untapped with only 3 percent of 9 million hectares of identified mineral reserves are mined.