Duterte’s election to the presidency in 2016 signalled something of a shift in Philippines politics, with the then-mayor of Davao City defeating big-name candidates such as Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of the dictator who ruled the country between 1965 and 1986, and Mar Roxas, who had been tipped by former President Benigno Aquino III to succeed him.
Yet with only 39% of the vote, he may have lacked the popular mandate to push through some of his more radical policies, from a hard-line stance on crime to his widespread opposition to large-scale mining.
However, his administration pressed on with an anti-mining agenda regardless. In 2017, Environment Secretary Regina Lopez ordered the closure of more than half of the country’s operating mines, and announced a ban on new open-pit operations, concluding that such projects were responsible for significant environmental damage.
Lopez left her position in May that year, after the country’s congress voted against confirming her position, but by the end of the year, Duterte had still not overturned the ban. This was in spite of pressure from Lopez’s replacement, Roy Cimatu, to lift the ban and allow projects, such as the $5.9bn Tampakan gold and copper mine, to continue operations.
Work at the mine has still not started, due to a combination of the open pit mining ban and opposition from local groups, wiping potential annual production figures of 360,000 ounces of gold and 375,000 tons of copper from the Philippines mining industry.