MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has not lifted a ban on open pit mining, his spokesman said on Monday, going against the stance of a government panel and the environment minister who are seeking to reverse the policy.
Open pit mining is allowed under the laws of the Southeast Asian country, the world’s top nickel ore exporter. But, the former environment minister Regina Lopez banned it during her 10 months in office, saying the environmental degradation ruined the economic potential of places where it was done.
The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), an inter-agency panel that makes recommendations on mining policy, last month asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to lift the ban. Roy Cimatu, the new Environment and Natural Resources Secretary, supports removing the ban. Cimatu replaced Lopez when she stepped down in May after the Philippine Congress voted not to confirm her.
“I assure you that this is one of the instances when I personally asked the President if there’s been a change in policy. And he says that’s there’s still no new policy on this, there’s still a ban on new open pit mining,” Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesman, told a media briefing.
Roque said he was unsure whether the MICC recommendation has reached Duterte. The MICC is co-chaired by Cimatu and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.