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Duterte orders mining freeze in Tumbagaan, Tawi-Tawi

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the suspension of all mining on an island in Tawi-Tawi, within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, a cabinet official said Tuesday.

The President issued the order following reports that Tumbagaan Island in Lunguyan, Tawi-Tawi has been “completely devastated as a result of mining operations,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said at a televised briefing.

He said Mr. Duterte brought up the state of mining on the island, a source of nickel, during a Cabinet meeting on Monday night in Malacañang.

“The island at this point has been mined out. And while rehabilitation efforts are underway, the President is issuing a directive to stop any and all mining operations in Tumbagaan island,” he said.

Tumbagaan lies northeast of Tawi-Tawi island, where the provincial capital Bongao is located.

The authorities have been directed to “step up” the rehabilitation of the island, he added. “More action will be considered as more light is shed regarding the state of the island and the conduct of mining operations in the area.”

In 2017, Indonesia passed the Philippines as the largest global nickel producer after the government in Manila ordered a review of miners’ compliance with environmental rules.

Fitch Solutions said last year that the Philippines is set to regain its position as the largest producer within the next decade after Indonesia itself imposed controls on nickel exports.

Nickel is a key component in the manufacture of stainless steel, and China is the biggest market for the ore. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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