MANILA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte decided to maintain the veto on open-pit mining in the country despite attempts to reverse the policy by his own government and pressure from miners, his spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday.
“I verified this personally with the president. He says that the ban on new open-pit mining remains,” Roque said at a press conference.
The ban on this controversial mineral extraction technique, said to have a strong impact on the natural environment, was imposed by former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez, an environmentalist who was relieved of office in May, reportedly due to pressure from mining companies.
Shortly before her removal, Lopez issued an administrative order vetoing the opening of new open-pit operations for copper, gold, silver and other metals.
With the approval of the new environment secretary, Roy Cimatu, the government’s Mining Industry Coordinating Council voted in late October in favor of lifting the ban and allowing open-pit mining.
Duterte, who has the last word and already showed his support for Lopez’s veto, said that there is still no new policy on this to regulate the opening of new mines and therefore the decision of the council will not be implemented at the moment, Roque said.
The Philippine Chamber of Mines, which represents 26 mining companies operating in the country, said in a statement that it wanted the president to lift the ban as soon as possible, while environmental organizations celebrated Duterte’s decision.
In the Philippines there are currently 41 mines, 27 of them producing nickel, making the country the largest exporter of this metal in the world.