PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte underscored his “dream” to one day close mining operations in “most parts of the country” following the landslide that buried dozens of houses and killed at least 33 in Cebu.
The landslide in the City of Naga, Cebu, happened five days after a mining site in Itogon, Benguet, collapsed at the height of Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut). More 50 persons died in the Itogon landslide.
“I have been saying it right from the start that one day, and I hope to realize it, I pray to God that I’d still be there, by that time, I’ll give them maybe warning. I will eventually close mining operations in most parts of the country,” Duterte said in a speech delivered during the Asia Pacific Association of Gastroenterology forum in Lapu-Lapu City.
He said he could not afford to risk the public’s lives, in exchange for the P70 billion in profit from mining collections every year.
“It’s because the P70 billion that we earned 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 and typhoon. So that’s how it is,” he added.
Duterte also made a similar statement during his visit to landslide victims in the City of Naga also on Friday, September 21, when he told the evacuees that he will work to stop mining in the country before he steps down from office.
“Ibawal na ‘to na. That’s the only way nga akong buhaton una ko munaog pagkatrabahante sa gobyerno (We will prohibit mining. I will make that happen before I step down from office),” he said.
Thirty-three people were confirmed dead in the massive landslide that struck Sitio Sindulan, Barangay Tina-an in Naga on Thursday, September 20.
Rescuers have been digging since Thursday, hoping to find survivors, as 50 people remained missing as of 5 p.m. Friday. Nine survivors have so far been found.
Duterte lamented that mining has “created a monster” that caused environmental degradation and human misery.
Duterte, however, stressed that he could not order the immediate closure of mining companies, saying the current laws allowed them to operate in the country.
He noted that only Congress could make amendments to the mining laws.
“That’s the entire picture of what the storm is. It means death. It means a collapse of so many mining,” he said.
“There is a law which allows mining and it is an act of Congress, which I cannot overrule. I can only implement the measures, there in the law. But to have the law or not, that’s not for the executive department, it belongs to the legislative,” he added.