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Duterte camp says mining key player in Philippine economy

According to incoming presidential spokesperson Ernesto “Ernie” Abella, president-elect Rodrigo Duterte is not against mining. AP/Bullit Marquez
Davao City — President-elect Rodrigo Duterte views the mining industry as a key player in the Philippine economy, his spokesman said Thursday, as investors see a tougher regulatory environment due to his designation of an anti-mining advocate as his Environment chief.
 
Duterte has offered the post of Environment secretary to Gina Lopez, chairperson of ABS-CBN’s charitable arm Lingkod Bayan Foundation and an outspoken critic of mining. Lopez, who campaigned against mining in Palawan, has accepted the post.
 
A day after Duterte announced his offer to Lopez, mining and oil stocks fell by more than 4 percent, a development attributed to investors’ anxiety over the next administration’s policies.
 
Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella, however, maintained that the next president is not anti-mining.
 
Asked if Duterte is keen on having the mining sector grow, Abella said the incoming administration is committed to promoting a robust and dynamic economy, with every sector contributing to its growth.
 
"Responsible mining plays a key role in the Philippines,” Abella said in a press conference in Davao City. “The key word here is responsible. And our president has made his position very clear: ‘You have to do it right. If you cannot do it right, then get out of mining,’” he added.
 
Abella said Duterte wants the standards of responsible mining in developed countries like Canada and Australia applied in the Philippines “to ensure the protection of the environment.”
 
“He (Duterte) supports each and every venture that contributes to the health of the economy but he is clear that for whatever venture we go into, it should be in a responsible manner. He is not anti-mining.  Definitely not,” the incoming presidential spokesman said.
 
When asked how he can reconcile his pronouncement with the potential appointment of Lopez, who has been staunch critic of mining, Abella said: “The fact that she accepted it (post) means that she is willing to adjust her positions.”
 
In an earlier interview, Lopez said she is ready to dialogue with mining firms and to cleanse the ranks of the Environment department of people who accept bribes. 
 
Duterte also defended his chosen Environment chief. He said Lopez is an “ardent (advocate) for responsible mining.”
 
On Wednesday, Duterte announced that there would be a “comprehensive review” of all mining concessions to ensure that their operations are not destroying the environment.  
 
He also asked mining firms to plant trees and wash away the chemicals they leave behind to avoid destroying the environment.
 
“If you don’t do it, I will cancel the permit,” Duterte said.
 
“When you’re spoiling the land, I’ll cancel it (permit) without hesitation. That’s the bottom line,” he added.
 
Duterte stressed that the mining players “have to do it right” because the precious metals belong to the Filipino people.
 
“If you cannot do it right then get out of mining,” the tough-talking leader said.
 
Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, who heads mining firm Philex, has a majority stake in The Philippine Star through Mediaquest Holdings Inc.
 
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