Duterte orders DENR to look for options to open pit mining

A nickel mine in Palawan. (Facebook image)

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to look into options for open pit mining, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said Thursday.

“During the Cabinet meeting last September 4, the President ordered me to look into other options or modalities in getting what is inside the bowels of the earth aside from open pit mining,” Cimatu said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday, October 19.

Duterte also instructed Cimatu not to allow mining in watersheds and to require mining companies to plant trees in barren areas within the company concession, which are not utilized for mining, according to the DENR chief.

Cimatu said Duterte is not against open pit mining as long as mining companies extend assistance to communities that are affected by such mining method.

“Mining companies will be given that elbow room… but eventually at some point in the future, open pit mining will have to return or to turn (to) more environmentally-accepted methods,” Cimatu said.

He said the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) would be convening on October 24 to translate the President’s instruction into specific guidance.

Cimatu, meanwhile, said he is open to the idea of increasing the excise tax on mining companies.

“We have to plan properly how much of financial and so forth and so on. But mukhang maliit ‘yung two percent,” he said, noting that currently, the mining industry is contributing less than one percent to the GDP.

“Other countries, they are getting about 10 percent, 8 percent. In fact, one country in South America is getting 15 percent,” Cimatu said.

“So these are the things that we have to look (into) because as of now, we are the fifth mineralized country in the world and their estimate is that if we can get all these, it can translate into a very big revenue for the government and it can translate I think into trillions of pesos,” he said.

In the same briefing, Cimatu said the government is pushing for the modernization of the vehicles in the country in a bid to decrease air pollution.

“The number one source of pollution really are those engines that are still categorized as Euro 2. And these Euro 2 vehicles should be out in the streets by the middle of next year, as far as our plans is concerned with the DENR,” Cimatu said.

As for solid waste management, Cimatu said they had closed the Payatas landfill because it had already exceeded its limit.

He said the dumpsite in Rodriguez, Rizal is currently being used but is expected to be used only until 2022.

“Payatas, that should have been closed four years ago eh. But na-extend-extend hangga’t supposed to be ngayon December na sana ang final. Pero hindi na natin pinaabot ‘yung December kasi talagang delikado na,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu then said it is vital for each household to at least recycle their trash so as not to contribute to the problem of waste disposal.