A statement of support to the confirmation of appointment of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez
The appointment of Gina Lopez to the top position of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is the most significant change in this institution, historically known to be hopelessly corrupt and graft-ridden. Secretary Lopez may not be an environmental science expert, but her environmental activism has given her enough will to do for the environment and country what previous DENR secretaries failed to do.
As proof, she led a mining audit upon setting foot in the DENR. By September last year, she released suspension orders to almost 10 mines in the country. This was well received by communities long suffering from mining impacts and abandoned by the government. Upon completion of the audit, the DENR announced just this month that there are about 23 mines for closure, another 5 for suspension, and 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) for cancellation, mostly in the Mindanao region.
Expectedly, this announcement triggered pro-mining institutions as well as individuals to react and accuse the DENR for being biased and unscientific. In fact, the Chamber of Mines (COM), recently, also expressed opposition to Sec. Lopez’s confirmation of appointment, describing her as incompetent for the position.
The CEC together with its partner organizations from the rural communities and the grassroots, on the other hand, laud the DENR’s action against the impacts of destructive mining in the country. Environmental degradation has worsened over the past 20 years since the enactment of the Mining Act of 1995, which has allowed the liberalization of the industry. Contrary to the propaganda that the mining industry will bring hundreds of billions of dollars to the country, enough to wipe off the external debt of the country, 20 years of mining under the liberalized industry regime have proven that this is illusory.
In Sta. Cruz, Zambales, communities are cheering the closure order of the four big mining companies operating in their town. They are pushing for permanent closure, justice for victims and rehabilitation of their destroyed roads, rivers, farms forests and coastal areas. Zambales was one of the hard hit provinces during Typhoon Lando in 2015, whose impacts underscored the vulnerability of communities living adjacent to mining operations. Lumad communities in Mindanao are also among the most affected by mining not just in terms of environmental degredation but as well as property rights of indigenous communities over their ancestral domains being claimed by big mining corporations.
Secretary Lopez is clear on her positions of a pro-people environmentalism—putting the communities at the heart of protecting the environment. In this regard, we see her appointment as a step forward towards empowering the people and protecting the environment from plunder and corporate greed.
We, as environmental advocates, together with our grassroots partners, scientists and professionals support the confirmation of appointment of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez on March 01, 2017, for the people and the environment.