News SONA 2018 Promise Tracker

SONA 2018 Promise Tracker: Environment

Of the promises President Duterte made during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) related to the protection and preservation of the environment, he achieved but one – the ban on open-pit mining. Those that pertain to the restoration and rehabilitation of the country’s tourist destinations remain in-progress. Where he failed, however, was to deliver on the laws for land use, and the creation of a disaster agency.

Three months into the government-ordered closure of Boracay, President Rodrigo Duterte in his third SONA underscored the need for the island’s “long overdue” restoration.

Boracay, previously tagged by the president as a “cesspool,” was reopened to the public in October 2018 after six months of full-blown rehabilitation. On July 2, Duterte approved the multibillion-peso Boracay Medium-Term Action Plan to “sustain the efforts of the government after its closure.”

Several financial aid and livelihood programs are also being implemented by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to assist residents whose livelihoods were affected.

Boracay is just the “beginning of a new national effort,” Duterte said. Other rehabilitation efforts in progress include the Laguna Lake, and other tourist destinations, such as El Nido and Coron in Palawan that government is presently monitoring.

On the mining front, the president warned of more “restrictive” policies. In August 2018, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an order delimiting areas that may be mined, while its 2017 ban on open-pit mining on select minerals is still in place.

Meanwhile, his 2016 promise of rehabilitating the Carmona Sanitary Landfill and the Laguna Lake remain unfulfilled.

Duterte also reiterated his appeal to Congress to pass legislation creating a department of disaster management, as well as the National Land Use Act, but to no avail.

Here’s how the president fared in his promises on environment preservation.

PROMISE: Sustain rehabilitation efforts in Boracay and aid affected residents

“We intend to restore [Boracay island’s] environmental integrity, alongside measures to alleviate those whose livelihood were momentarily affected.” (SONA 2018)

In progress

Prior his 2018 SONA, Duterte ordered the six-month closure of Boracay to make way for major environmental restoration efforts. It was reopened to the public in October 2018 but with stricter regulations, including a “no compliance, no opening” policy to businesses planning to operate in the area.

As of July 10, the DENR, Department of Interior and Local Government, and Department of Tourism have jointly accredited 356 establishments to operate.

On July 2, Duterte approved the Boracay Medium-Term Action Plan, worth P25 billion, that will focus on:

  • enforcement of laws and regulations;
  • pollution control and prevention;
  • rehabilitation and recovery of the ecosystem; and
  • sustainability of island activities, including infrastructure.

On Duterte’s second promise, the government has in place several financial aid and livelihood programs for those whose livelihoods were affected by the closure and rehabilitation efforts.

Among them is DOLE’s emergency employment program, under which informal sector workers and indigenous people were paid minimum wages to assist in the rehabilitation.

As of Jan. 30, 2019, DOLE said it has disbursed about P50.96 million for the salaries of 5,005 beneficiaries.

There is also the Boracay Emergency Employment Program that offers an assistance package “aimed to enhance the employability and competitiveness” of formal sector workers and to “mitigate the adverse economic impact of the island’s rehabilitation.”

Beneficiaries were provided financial assistance of about P4,200 a month.

PROMISE: Rehabilitate other tourist destinations

“For the other tourist destinations needing urgent rehabilitation and enforcement of environmental and other laws shall soon follow.” (SONA 2018)

In progress

El Nido and Coron in Palawan, Panglao in Bohol, Siargao in Surigao del Norte and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro are among the tourist destinations being monitored by the DENR.

The department has so far ordered the review and revocation of licenses of businesses in the listed areas that are not compliant with environmental policies.

PROMISE: Pass National Land Use Act

“I therefore urge the Senate to urgently pass the National Land Use Act to put in place a national land use policy that will address our competing land requirements for food, housing, businesses, and environmental conservation. We need to do this now.” (SONA 2018)

“I am appealing to all our legislators to immediately pass the National Land Use Act or NALUA to ensure the rational and sustainable use of our land and our physical resources, given the competing needs of food security, housing, businesses and environmental conservation.” (SONA 2017)


None of the five Senate bills on national land use have moved past the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources despite the president’s appeal, legislative records show.

A similar bill has been approved by the House of Representatives in May 2017.

PROMISE: Pass law creating a disaster agency

“[W]e, in the Cabinet, have approved for immediate endorsement to Congress the passage of a law creating the ‘Department of Disaster Management,’ an inter-agency — just like FEMA… I fervently appeal to Congress to pass this bill with utmost urgency.” (SONA 2018)

“I am calling [on] both houses of Congress to expeditiously craft a law establishing a new authority or department that is responsive to the prevailing 21 century conditions and empowered to best deliver [an] enhanced disaster resiliency and quick disaster response.” (SONA 2017)


Duterte’s appeal to Congress in his 2018 SONA yielded at least three filed bills in the Senate, in addition to two that were already existing. All remain pending at the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, according to legislative records.

The House of Representativesapproved in October 2018 a bill creating the Department of Disaster Resilience.

PROMISE: Ensure protection of environment in mining operations and limit the use of extracted resources to Filipinos

“My policy in the utilization of these resources is non-negotiable: the protection of the environment must be [the] top priority and extracted resources must be used for the benefit of the Filipino people, not just a select few.” (SONA 2018)

“If possible, we shall put a stop to the extraction and exportation of our mineral resources to foreign nations for processing abroad and importing them back to the Philippines in the form of consumer goods at prices twice or thrice the value of the original raw materials foreign corporations pay for the them.” (SONA 2017)

In progress

Less than a month after Duterte’s SONA last year, DENR issued Administrative Order 2018-19, delimiting the areas that may be mined and developed, as well as provided new policies to “ensure sustainable conditions at every stage of the…operations” of metallic mines.

In his 2017 SONA, Duterte said he wanted to “put a stop to the extraction and exportation of our mineral resources to foreign nations.”

As of April 2019, the export of metal components fell by 27.2 percent year-on-year while other mineral products dropped 11.9 percent during the same time period, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show.

However, the export of gold grew by 36.1 percent year-on-year, according to PSA.

Duterte’s promise drew criticism from several mining experts. An official from the Chamber of Mines also said they “feel” the ban is not the right solution to enhance the link between the mining sector to the processing and manufacturing sectors.

PROMISE: Ban open-pit mining

“Try to change [your (mining industry)] management radically because this time you will have restrictive policies. The prohibition of open-pit mining is one.” (SONA 2018)


The order of then-DENR Secretary Gina Lopez in April 2017 to ban the “use of open-pit method of mining for the extraction of copper, gold, silver and/or complex ores” is still in place. However, the order only restricts prospective open-pit mines and directs open-pit mining contractors who have yet to start commercial operation to “review” its planned methods. It did not mention those which are already commercially operational.

Lawmakers from both houses of Congress have expressed their support to the president’s mining agenda.

Then House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proposed a total ban of the method in a House bill last year defining the fiscal regime of the mining industry but it failed to make it on the final approved version.

She also pushed for a legal definition of the method.

In the Senate, reelected Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel filed on Jan. 31, 2018 a Senate resolution calling for the review of the Philippine Mining Act to incorporate the ban on open-pit mining, among others.

However, no Senate bill has been filed yet heeding Pimentel’s call.

PROMISE: Close down Carmona Sanitary Landfill

“To have adequate disposal facilities for the Metro Manila Garbage, the final closure and rehabilitation of the Carmona Sanitary Landfill shall be pursued…” (SONA 2016)

In progress

The Carmona Sanitary Landfill is currently undergoing feasibility studies prior to rehabilitation, an official from the Metro Manila Development Authority confirmed.

PROMISE: Rehabilitate Laguna Lake

“The Laguna Lake shall be transformed into a vibrant economic zone showcasing ecotourism by addressing the negative impact of the watershed destruction, land conversion and pollution. Ito ang nilagay ko. This is what I am telling: The poor fishermen will have priority in its entitlements.” (SONA 2016)

In progress

Rehabilitation efforts are still ongoing, according to the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA).

Aside from the inspection of establishments along the lake, a notable development in its rehabilitation is the clean-up efforts in Manila Bay.

The two bodies of water are interconnected through the Pasig River, hence it is “difficult to clean one without cleaning the other,” according to the LLDA’s 2019 midyear report.

A Laguna Lakeshore Road Network Project is also underway, headed by the Department of Public Works and Highways. The LLDA in its report said this would “benefit and improve the transportation and the development in the areas surrounding Laguna Lake and the lake itself.”

In May, the DENR led the creation of a Laguna Lake Conceptual Development Plan which will:

  • determine areas to be used for urban and industrial purposes and those for agricultural and reforestation;
  • control contaminants and reduce water consumption; and
  • improve tourism in the area, thereby enhancing its economy, among others.


On Boracay

On tourist destinations

On the National Land Use Act

On the Department of Disaster Management

On mining policies

On banning open-pit mining

On Carmona Sanitary Landfill

  • Metro Manila Development Authority, Interview

On Laguna Lake

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)