President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2nd State of the Nation address Tuesday got mixed reactions from Palawan, with key political leaders applauding his terse warning to mining companies, even as some private individuals, including civil society groups, said they were not impressed.
1st District Rep. Franz Josef Alvarez said he was pleased with the president’s “strict” stance on mining which he said will be beneficial to Palawan, which hosts several large scale nickel mining operations.
Alvarez was referring to Duterte’s warning to “tax to death” mining companies that did not conform with mining regulations particularly on the rehabilitation of mined out areas.
“I am holding all mining companies and their officials responsible for the full and quick clean up restoration rehabilitation of all areas damaged by mining activities and extension of all necessary support to the communities that have suffered mining’s disastrous effects to the health among others,” Duterte said in his SONA address.
“Yung pagiging strict sa mga mining companies, sa tingin ko, yun ang mga point na magbe-benefit ang mga taga-Palawan,” Alvarez said.
3rd district Rep. Gil Acosta said the President’s pointed remarks against abusive mining companies supports his no-mining stand.
“Umaayon ito sa legislative agendum ko na in our district, Puerto Princesa and Aborlan, dapat walang pagmimina. Yung mga application sa DENR dapat di na entertain-in. Yung sinabi ni president dapat talaga bantayan, at for Palawan, that’s a good news.”
He added that the government should not approve anymore new mining projects in Palawan apart from those operating already such as the Rio Tuba Nickel Corporation and Coral Bay Nickel Corporation in Bataraza.
2nd district Rep. Frederick Abueg, whose district hosts all of the province’s active mining operations, said he believes the president was “for responsible mining.”
“Ang gusto lang naman ng presidente, responsible mining, basta nasusunod lang kung ano nakalagay sa batas,” Abueg said.
Abueg added that he supported Duterte’s decision to extend martial law in Mindanao, saying he believes this will curtail terrorist activities and negate the likelihood of terrorist threat from spreading to Palawan.
“Ang direct impact naman nyan sa Palawan yung sa extension ng Martial Law. At least, makakasiguro tayo na hindi magkakaroon ng spill over sa Palawan,” he said.
Leopoldo Robles, a 39-year old taho vendor, said he was unable to relate to what Duterte said in his SONA.
“Wala silbi yang SONA. Puro salita lang naman. Walang dagdag na kita o mababang presyo ng bigas,” Robles said.
NGO leader Atty. Bobby Chan said the President’s message underscored the failure of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to protect the environment.
“Malinaw na hindi sinusunod ng PCSD ang sinasabi ng presidente. Una, existing pa rin ang co-management with DENR, kalokohan yan. Pangalawa, yung e-nipas, gusto nila tanggalin ang Palawan para imbes na PAMB, nasa PCSD pa rin ang pamamahala ng mga protected areas,” Chan said, referring to local policy debates concerning protected areas in Palawan.
Fr. Eugene Elivera said he found the president’s SONA to reflective of his “pro-development and pro-environment” stand.
“These two are music to the ears of Palaweños. Following the law is always fundamental to the attainment of goals for people and our environment,” Fr. Elivera said.
City Councilor Henry Gadiano said he liked the President’s emphasis on fighting terrorism, corruption and mining.
“Inaasahan ko sana na sa mining ay magbibigay si President Duterte ng deadline kung kailan nila aayusin yung nasira nila sa environment kaso wala,” Gadiano said.