Photographer: Luc Forsyth/Getty Images

Duterte Environment Chief Decries Mining’s ‘Pathetic’ Record

  • Philippine mining shares slump after Lopez accepts post
  • Lopez says mining harms environment and puts farmers at risk

The Philippines will have an anti-mining crusader running the environment department, after Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s choice accepted the post this week. Shares of resources companies plunged a second day.

Regina “Gina” Lopez, 61, managing director of ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Inc., said Tuesday that she accepts the offer to head the environment and natural resources department. The Philippine stock exchange’s mining and oil index fell 7.3 percent on Wednesday, the steepest drop in 10 months, after closing 4.1 percent lower in the previous session. Duterte offered the post to Lopez on Monday.

Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. tumbled 6.8 percent and Philex Mining Corp. lost 11 percent, while Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc. was down 6.5 percent and Semirara Mining and Power Corp. slid 7.9 percent at the session’s close. Nickel Asia Corp., the nation’s largest producer in which Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. holds a 26 percent stake, dropped 4.6 percent. The broader Philippine Stock Exchange PSEi Index was little changed.

“The reason why I don’t like mining is: the poor suffer so that the foreigners and already very rich people benefit,” Lopez told the ABS-CBN News Channel late Tuesday. Small miners, big resource companies and coal plants harm the environment, endanger the livelihood of farmers and fishermen and are potential health hazards, she said.

‘Sound Policies’

The new chief must be able to balance economic growth with the need to protect the environment and indigenous communities, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. The department needs a leader who has the will “to enforce sound policies in managing the country’s rich resources,” according to the statement.

Nickel Asia’s operations comply with environmental standards and the company will work with the incoming administration “to promote responsible mining,” President Gerard Brimo said in a mobile-phone message on Wednesday. Philex Mining Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said Lopez must be given a chance to articulate planned mining policies, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

Lopez’s appointment bodes well for companies developing clean and renewable energy sources. “We’re an incredible country with solar, with wind, with thermal, surely we can find a way,” she said. Energy Development Corp., which produces geothermal energy, jumped 6.5 percent on Wednesday and First Gen Corp. added 8.7 percent, the highest close in almost a year. Both companies are owned by the Lopez family.

Duterte, who takes office on June 30, told a forum of businessmen in Davao Tuesday that he will review all mining claims and that he won’t hesitate to scrap those found to be “spoiling the land.” The brash city mayor, who won on his pledge to crush crime and corruption, made a similar warning on June 4, triggering a decline in some mining shares the following trading day.

Track Record

Outgoing President Benigno Aquino banned new mining permits during his six-year term and investors hoped that Duterte’s administration would revive the industry in a country with mineral reserves estimated at $1.4 trillion.

“Any kind of mining here puts our farmers and fishermen at risk; for whom, for what, is this worth it?” Lopez asked. “We’ve been doing it for a hundred years and usually, you do something and you know if it’s good by track record. Well, mining has a pathetic track record. Wherever there’s mining the people are poor.”

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