The first-ever Mindanao Environmental Summit marked a historical moment for the Ateneo de Davao University with the presence and visit of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the campus last Aug. 4.
The summit, entitled “Oya Mindanaw! State of the Mindanao Environment Day”, was held at the school with students and representatives from various civil society groups as participants and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez as the lead discussant.
For the morning session of the event, Lopez held a discussion and forum regarding the environmental concerns and status of Mindanao at the university’s Finster Auditorium.
This was then followed by a press conference where Lopez answered and entertained questions regarding the plans of the DENR.
During the afternoon session of the event, the participants gathered at the school’s Martin Hall building where Duterte arrived with his security team in order to witness the turnover of the Mindanao Environmental Agenda to Lopez.
Duterte then gave a speech expressing his support for the DENR’s agenda under Lopez’s leadership.
In the first part of his speech, Duterte commended Lopez and her advocacy while comparing her to other persons in power.
“The wealth of this country is owned by just a few guys. Hindi naman lahat na mayaman oligarchs. Some of them built their empire through the years.
“Gina is a billionaire, but look at the way she treats herself. She is a crusader, and she loves country and she hates oligarchs,” he said.
He then reiterated the need for a federalist nation by explaining the problem with the current government and oligarchy.
“The imperial Manila controls everything because we are a unitary type of government. Lahat ng permit to do business galing sa Manila and through delegated powers from the central government,” he said.
He also related the problem of oligarchy to mining.
“That is why itong mga lupa sa Mindanao and everywhere else, yung mga mina napupunta sa oligarch. Walang ginawa kung di influence peddling,” he added.
With regard to the legal processes concerning environmental concerns, Duterte stated that there is a need for reform especially in the context of local governance.
“Ang ating mga lupa dito napupunta lang sa may connections. Ang problema dito, itong mga local officials. Sila ang huling baraha to give the environmental clearance. Kaya that is a source of corruption. Kapag mayor, governor mag-issue ng permit, pera iyan. It is a corrupt society,” he said.
He added that he will fight the oligarchy system and corruption.
“Itong mga oligarchy, they are resisting because it would destroy the power vortex… I will destroy their clutches on our country.”
Duterte then further explained how mining is destructive to Mindanao.
“Yung iba [other mining companies], they destroy for example Tubay, Agusan del Norte. Pumunta ka doon parang inaro. Inararo ang bukid as if they’re going to plant something there. Di mo lang alam na kalahati desert na… They are not into planting, they are into open-pit mining and destroying the soil along the way.
“An island as fragile as Mindanao–kung butasan mo ito at sirain, there will be no longer a tomorrow for your children. I want to protect Davao City and the country for the children,” he said.
Duterte then explained that the government will target mining companies that will not follow the rules.
“We will go after mining na hindi sumusunod sa strictest standard. We told them that the best practices of mining can be found in Canada and Australia. If you cannot follow that standard, I’m sorry,” he said.
He later added that regardless of legality, mining is ultimately harmful to the Philippines.
“We can only open so much [mining companies]. Whether it is legal or not, it will destroy the country, so there has to be a limit,”
Later on in his speech, Duterte stated that he will serve the citizens in any way to the best of his ability.
“It was the Filipino who voted me to power, and that power will remain with the Filipino. I am a worker of government,” he said.