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Tougher war vs drugs, irresponsible mining vowed

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QUEZON CITY – “The war against illegal drugs is far from over.”



President Rodrigo R. Duterte stressed this in his third and shortest State of the Nation Address (SONA) as he vowed that his administration's drug war will be “as relentless and chilling” as it was the day it began.


“Let me begin by putting it bluntly: the war against illegal drugs is far from over. Where before, the war resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs worth millions of pesos, today, they run [into] billions in peso value,” Duterte said in his opening statements before the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Batasan Pambansa Complex.


Duterte said he could only “shudder” at the harm that illegal drugs have caused Filipinos throughout the country, noting that this was the very reason why the drug war will not be set aside. “Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling, if you will, as on the day it began,” he stressed.


He said drug dealers know the consequences of their criminal acts but still resisted arrest. At the same time, he also hit human rights advocates and church leaders for criticizing his drug war.


Despite protests against the drug war, Duterte said it could not dissuade him from continuing his fight against shabu, cocaine, cannabis, heroine, and other illegal drugs.


“If you think that I can be dissuaded from continuing this fight because of [your] demonstrations, your protests, which I find, by the way, misdirected, then you got it all wrong.


“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives. You worry about the present; I am concerned [about] both the present and the future. I worry about the future because I know what crimes can do to the youth of this country. If not stopped, crimes can make human cesspools of succeeding generations. I will not allow it to happen. Not during my term,” Duterte said.


The President's call came as a Pulse Asia survey showed almost seven out of 10 Filipinos believe that the eradication of illegal drugs is the most important accomplishment of the Duterte administration in the first two years of his term.


The survey, which was conducted from 15 to 21 June, revealed at least 69 percent of the 1,800 respondents considering the President’s anti-drug campaign as the most important achievement of the administration, while fighting criminality came in as second with 50 percent.


Duterte also assured Filipinos the government would intensify its campaign against irresponsible mining nationwide to further protect the environment, so future generations can benefit from the country's natural wealth.


The President warned about implementing stricter environmental protection policies, including prohibiting open-pit mining.


Duterte, at the same time, called on local government units (LGUs) nationwide to prevent environmental degradation in their areas like what happened to top tourist destination Boracay Island in Aklan province.


"I urge LGUs to pro-actively enforce our laws and not wait for us to swoop down on your areas just to do your duty and work," the President said. 


He raised the challenge among the LGUs, citing that the environmental degradation in Boracay reflects the government's negligence in law enforcement in the locality.


The environment provides water, food, and other necessities people need to survive, so enforcing laws protecting this is essential, he stressed.


"Environmental protection and ensuring needs of the people can't be over-emphasized," he said.


The government has closed down Boracay Island for six months beginning April 26 this year to hasten the cleanup and rehabilitation work in the world-famous Philippine beach resort.


Miners, he stressed, must radically improve the way they manage their operations and rehabilitate the areas where they mine.


"To the mining industry, I say this again and maybe for the last time: Do not destroy the environment or compromise our resources," he warned.


The President said the revenue that mining brings the government doesn't justify the environmental destruction from irresponsible mineral extraction.

"Don't just give me taxes. I can get these from other sources," he said, referring to the miners. "But give me what needs to be given to my countrymen."


All Filipinos must benefit from the country's minerals, he noted.


Duterte said irresponsible mining is destroying even the country's aquatic resources, compromising the availability of water and food.


"You can no longer fish in rivers, as these are contaminated," he noted, citing one impact of mine waste's flow into the water bodies.


Also in his SONA, Duterte renewed his vow to end corruption within government describing it as “a leech that it bleeds the government of funds programmed for its infrastructure and other social development projects.”


The President acknowledged that he dismissed several government officials including friends and political supporters, adding that although he valued friendships, “it has its limits.”


Meanwhile, he urged officials to cut red-tape within their agencies and make government services “truly customer friendly.”


“Our people deserve efficient, effective, and responsive government services. They deserve nothing less,” he added.

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