By: Jaymee T. Gamil:46 AM May 04, 2017
Opponents of Gina Lopez on Wednesday celebrated the congressional rejection of her nomination as environment secretary, while her supporters lamented the lawmakers’ decision, saying strong public support was no match for business and political interests.
In the mining region of Caraga, Surigao del Sur Gov. Vicente Pimentel said he was “very elated” at the rejection of Lopez’s nomination.
“We can now finally return to a stable regulatory environment with her gone [from] office. [During] her stint in [the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or DENR], Ms Lopez did a horrible job because she refused to follow existing laws and instead let her biases define her leadership. She will not be missed,” Pimentel said.
Back to work
He said retrenched miners could now go back to work because “the market outlook will [surely] improve.”
According to Pimentel, one of Surigao del Sur’s mines, CTP Mining Corp., retrenched hundreds of employees after Lopez ordered its suspension, along with 13 other mines in the province.
Dulmar Raagas, president of the Chamber of Mines-Caraga Inc., welcomed the decision of the congressional Commission on Appointments (CA).
“While we sought to work with Ms Lopez [during her 10 months] in office, she constantly avoided forging a constructive relationship with the mining sector. Instead, she showed her deeply ingrained biases against mining, even responsible ones,” Raagas said.
“With her departure from the [DENR], we [expect] the investment climate [to] finally clear up and investors [to] resume pouring [money into] the Caraga mining industry,” he added.
‘Betrayal of the people’
Surigao del Norte provincial board member Fernando Larong said the board heaved a “monster sigh of relief” and applauded the lawmakers who voted to reject Lopez’s nomination.
“Let’s hope life here and other mining-dependent provinces can now go back to normal. Let’s pray the President will stop experimenting and appoint someone who knows the job and is more than just a dreamer,” Larong said.
Environmental activists and progressive groups who supported Lopez denounced the lawmakers’ decision, lamenting that business and political interests trumped strong public support for her.
“This is a tragedy for the environment as well as for the rights and welfare of our people,” Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said in a statement.
Garganera called the lawmakers’ decision a “betrayal of the people,” especially of communities who were “protecting their lives and livelihoods by resisting destructive large-scale mining.”
“Clearly our Congress does not represent the Filipino people,” Garganera said. “It (the decision) only shows that politicians are still not to be trusted to think and decide beyond their self-interests.”
“Today the big corporate powers won over our suffering and struggling communities,” Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of the environmental group EcoWaste Coalition, said.
Lucero described Lopez’s rejection as a “dark day” in the Filipinos’ fight against mining operations that had destroyed “our mountains and wrecked people’s lives.”
Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, blasted the appointments commission for “kowtowing to mining oligarchs” and “trapo” (traditional politicians).
Renato Reyes, secretary general of the left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), denounced the victory of “mining oligarchs,” “bureaucratic capitalism” and “vested interests” in the rejection of Lopez.
“Compromises appeared to have been made along the way. Big business interests continue to hold sway in the Duterte regime, both in the executive and the legislative branches. Mining interests [on] the Commission on Appointments are proof of this,” Reyes said in a statement.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate expressed “grave disappointment” over the rejection of Lopez.
“This is certainly a blow [to] the fight against the plunder of our natural resources and protection of our environment,” Zarate said in a statement.
“We hope that the Palace will appoint a successor [who] will approximate if not exceed [Secretary Lopez’s] ardent advocacy for the environment and no-nonsense fight against destructive mining and corporate greed,” he added.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao called on Filipinos to be vigilant and urged whoever would replace Lopez “to uphold the interest and welfare of the people and not succumb to the pressure and temptation of profitable but destructive mining operations.”
“We are very much disappointed. We fear that environmental degradation due to large-scale mining and other projects that harm the environment will worsen,” said Bong Sanchez, president of Save Antique Movement.
The Capiz Environmental Protection Alliance also decried the lawmakers’ rejection of Lopez.
“We are saddened because [Lopez] was a staunch advocate and our ally in the defense of our environment,” said Darlene Surriga, advocacy officer of the alliance.
Yoly Esguerra, national coordinator of the environmental group Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., said the lawmakers’ decision was a “rejection of the change that this government purportedly professes to uphold.”
“Change is just lip service for this government because it is still dominated by big business, especially miners,” Esguerra said.
Josephine Ignacio, coordinator of Defender of the Environment for Genuine Development of Zambales, blamed the rejection of Lopez on “pressure from powerful mining companies” on the appointments commission.
“For sure, mining companies and their supporters are in a celebratory mood. But the communities affected by mining activities will remain vigilant against irresponsible mining,” she said.
In Batangas province, Fr. Dakila Ramos of the Archdiocesan Ministry on the Environment of the Archdiocese of Lipa, said he was saddened by the rejection of Lopez.
“But the fight will continue,” Ramos said.
The Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns also lamented the rejection of Lopez.
“This only goes to show how powerful mining companies are,” said Elizabeth Manggol, the group’s leader. —WITH REPORTS FROM DANILO ADORADOR III, KARLOS MANLUPIG, NESTOR P. BURGOS JR., JOEY GABIETA, REDEMPTO ANDA, ALLAN MACATUNO, YOLANDA SOTELO AND VINCENT CABREZA