July 21, 2017 / 11:45 AM / 8 months ago

Philippines' Duterte says government plans new mining law

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday the government will draft a new law for the country’s mining industry, which he said pays too little in tax and not enough in compensation for any environmental damage.

President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a turnover ceremony of procured pistols for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at the Malacanang presidential palace in metro Manila, Philippines July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao

The fate of more than half of 41 mines in the Philippines, the world’s top nickel ore supplier, has been uncertain since February when then Environment Secretary Regina Lopez ordered their closure for causing environmental damage and violating laws.

Lopez led a 10-month industry crackdown until her dismissal in May by the Commission on Appointments following her mining orders, which included a ban on open-pit mining.

She was replaced by Duterte’s friend, former military general Roy Cimatu.

“I’d like to tell you frankly, we will come up with new legislation ... we have to rearrange everything,” Duterte said in a speech at a business conference in his hometown Davao City.

Duterte also said he would invite all industry stakeholders to the presidential palace for a dialogue together with his former environment minister Lopez and other anti-mining advocates.

Duterte said he has always been supportive of Lopez’s pro-environment stance but could not stop mining because there is a law that allows the miners to continue to operate.

He also complained that the taxes miners pay are “too low” and lamented the lack of compensation to mining communities that suffer from environmental damage.

Duterte did not say when the meeting would take place but he said he planned to show industry stakeholders footage shown to him by anti-mining advocates, including Lopez, about the environmental destruction as well examples of good practices in mining.

“I will tell (them), look at the slides about good practices of mining, and I will ask everybody to focus on that,” he said. “Then let’s also look at the slides on mining gone awry.”

He also urged mining companies to “come up with an arrangement that is fair to everybody.”

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz. Editing by Jane Merriman

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