Gina Lopez’s rejection as DENR Secretary by the Commission on Appointments shows how destructive industries continue to hold Philippine lawmakers by their necks.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Environmentalists from various groups condemned the Commission on Appointments’ rejection of Secretary Gina Lopez of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) blamed it on the “poisonous politics of mining plunderers”. Another environmentalist group also pointed to “destructive influence on politicians.” Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said Lopez’s rejection as DENR Secretary by the Commission on Appointments shows how destructive industries continue to hold Philippine lawmakers by their necks.
Saño described the rejection of Gina Lopez as a rejection of change. He said the CA, “dominated by politicians with questionable loyalty, some of whom are receiving campaign contributions from various mining interests, blocked what could have been the golden era of Philippine environmental rehabilitation and protection under Gina Lopez.”
The Kalikasan PNE called for full disclosure of the legislators who voted ‘No’ to Secretary Lopez, saying they deserve to be exposed as greedy trapos (traditional politicians) who continue to betray the interests of the Filipino public. “Their interests in mining and other extractive industries should be investigated,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
As far as the environmentalists are concerned, it’s not the absence of appropriate laws, as claimed by Occidental Mindoro congresswoman Josephine Sato, but the presence of powerful legislators’ interests in mining and other extractive industries that propelled the CA to reject an environmental crusader such as Sec. Gina Lopez.
The group announced that they will not allow the ‘business as usual’ politics of the trapos in the CA, “led by oligarchs Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Reps. Ronnie Zamora, Josephine Sato, and Wes Gatchalian, to return to the DENR.” Kalikasan PNE warned of more intense people’s resistance against the unabated operations of destructive large-scale mines and other pollutive and plunderous projects and should a “pro-plunder bureaucrat” be installed in the DENR.
They urge Pres. Duterte to ensure the continuity of Secretary Lopez’s historic mining crackdown and other meaningful reforms. They asked the president to uphold the principle of ensuring a progressive leadership in DENR, one they described as fearlessly challenging the mining magnates and other oligarchs and actually serving the people and the environment.
Under Secretary Gina Lopez, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued an unprecedented order for the closure of 23 big mining companies and suspension of five large-scale mining operations, along with the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements. Green groups and Filipino scientists viewed it as a positive step to address the current liberalized mining industry, which has wreaked environmental destruction and displaced communities.