MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte warned mining companies that a ban on open-pit mining could still be in place by 2019.
"Maybe next year, maybe, I will ban open-pit mining. Sleep on it," he said during a press conference on Monday, April 9, before his flight to Boao, China.
A ban on open-pit mining, imposed by former environment secretary Gina Lopez, is still in force after Duterte rejected the proposal of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) to lift it back in November 2017.
It's not clear in the President's latest remarks if he means he will issue a new ban or merely extend the current ban.
Duterte also told mining companies to start planting trees because if he sees even just one "bald spot" in areas they had mined, he would close down their operations.
"In 6 months, 'pag wala 'yung kahoy na iniwan 'nyo na winasak 'nyo 'yung lupa (if the trees are not there in the land you ruined), then consider your permit revoked," he said.
He advised them not to wait for the closure order.
"Do not wait for the day of your sorrow. Six months, I do not want to see any bald piece of land there. If I don't see trees as tall as me, better pack up your things, you can go, and that will be closed permanently," said the President.
In his second State of the Nation Address, Duterte told mining companies to rehabilitate mining areas and give compensation to communities affected by their operations, or else he would tax them "to death."
Months later, in November 2017, Duterte rejected the MICC proposal to lift the ban, citing the big environmental impact of mining and lack of speedy remedial measures.
The MICC is co-chaired by Lopez's replacement, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.