duterte 3 300x200 - President stops mine operations in Tawi-Tawi
President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte has suspended all mining operations on an island in Tawi-Tawi province in southern Mindanao that has been “completely devastated” because of quarrying activities, according to a Malacañang official.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles on Tuesday said Duterte issued the directive to government agencies during a full Cabinet meeting on Monday after he expressed concern over the state of Tumbagan Island in Languyan, Tawi-Tawi.

“The island at this point has been mined out. And while rehabilitation efforts are underway, the President is issuing a directive to stop any and all mining operations in Tumbagan island,” Nograles said in an online news briefing.

The Palace official added that Duterte also directed the planting of more trees and the implementation of other rehabilitation efforts on the island, a nickel-mining hub.

“More action will be considered as more light is shed, regarding the state of the island and the conduct of mining operations in the area,” Nograles said.

He added that Duterte has prioritized environmental protection and preservation, citing the President’s order to rehabilitate Boracay Island in 2018.

In 2018, the President said he might push for a total ban on mining, saying the industry has damaged the environment and has caused deadly landslides.

Duterte noted that while the mining industry contributes P70 billion a year to government coffers, its operations have softened the soil and have caused landslides.

“The repairs needed after the landslide and assistance to the dead, perhaps the cost reached P70 billion times five. The environment has also been damaged. Like you, I also want it (total ban on mining). The problem is [that] there is a law (that allows mining),” the President said.

“Sirang-sira talaga ang bayan natin. Nakakaawa. [Ang] Mindanao [‘pag] makita niyo, parang tansan ‒ iyong Coke. Ganoon ‘yun. Madaming butas. Puno ng butas, butas, butas (The country has been severely damaged. It’s in a pitiful state. Mindanao, have you seen it? It’s like a bottle cap that’s full of holes),” he added. CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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