By Genalyn Kabiling
It is up to Congress whether or not to repeal the law governing mining operations in the country, President Duterte declared on Friday in the wake of the recent deadly landslides in Cebu and Benguet.
The President acknowledged that his “great dream” was to close mining in “most parts of the country” but his hands were tied given the existing law that allows these companies to operate.
“There is a law which allows mining and it is an act of Congress which I cannot overrule. I can only implement the measures therein the law,” Duterte said during a health forum in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu on Friday.
“But to have the law or not, that’s not for the Executive department, it belongs to the legislators,” he added.
Republic Act No. 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 regulates mineral resource development in the country. It was signed during the Arroyo administration.
In his visit to Cebu, the President expressed anew his intention to shut down mining one day to avoid further death and destruction in surrounding communities. He argued that the mining revenues were insufficient to cover the damage caused by the industry.
“I have been saying right at the start that one day and I hope to realize it, I pray to God that I’ll still be there by that time, I’ll give them maybe — I’ve been warning that I will eventually close mining operations in most part of the country,” he said.
“It’s because the P70 billion that we earn by way of tax is not enough to compensate for all the suffering and agony that we have to experience every time there’s a calamity such as a typhoon,” he said.
Duterte admitted that his economic team was not keen on his proposed closure of mining operations due to the foregone revenues.
“Now, if I impose stringent measures, well, they would say that — your — my advisor would say, ‘Go easy on this because it’s a P70-billion industry a year in taxes,'” he said. “So you begin now to make a sort of a mental exercise of how much would you lose in terms of totality of the peso as against the earnings by way of taxes from mining companies,” he added.
But the President pointed out the environmental damage caused by mining operations, particularly open-pit mines, such as soil erosion and pollution of rivers.
“There are so many holes there down just beside that mountains, at the settlement of workers, the illegal mining activity. So when it rains — it rains like cats and dogs, the tunnel collapses, the mountain breaks free, and you have this disaster,” he said.
The President issued the remarks after visiting the family of the victims of a massive landslide in Naga City, Cebu. Duterte offered financial and housing assistance to the families.
The latest tragedy occurred a few days after a landslide hit a mining shelter in Itogon, Benguet that left dozens of persons dead.