LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) extends its highest commendation to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Gina Lopez for her past 10 months of pursuing fearless and progressive environmental reforms under the rallying cry of social justice.
Lopez was clearly a victim of the pervading bureaucrat capitalism in government. The big mining oligarchs in the Commission on Appointments likely used millions of pesos in mining money to undermine Lopez’ environmental crusade and ultimately move for the rejection of her confirmation as DENR secretary. Undoubtedly, the massive resources at the disposal of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines and other big mining lobbyists played an insidious role in this coup for corporate greed. President Rodrigo Duterte said it himself: “lobby money talks.”
We challenge Pres. Duterte to walk his talk of urging legislators to “hear the cries of Gina” by defying the patently partisan vote of the CA and immediately reappointing Lopez as DENR Secretary. Duterte must go the extra mile in continuing to work with Lopez against the dirty business-as-usual politics of big mining corporations and the mining oligarchs in government.
Duterte must ensure the continuity for the regulations and reforms that Lopez initiated. Through any means necessary, the Duterte administration must uphold the historic mining closure and suspension orders against the 28 destructive large-scale mining projects, the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements located in critical watersheds, and the ban on open-pit metallic mining. They must also continue the crackdown on big fishpens in Laguna Lake and ensure its ecological restoration.
In ensuring the continuity of environmental reforms and progressive leadership, it would be wise for Duterte to heed the counsel and support of the progressive people’s movement such as the Makabayan People’s Coalition. The people’s movement is from where Duterte’s most hard-working, resolutely principled, and pro-people, pro-environment secretaries, Welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform secretary Ka Paeng Mariano, hail from. It is also one of the biggest and most reliable allies of Lopez’ campaign for the environment.
Among the major achievements pursued by Lopez as environment secretary is her bridging the question of the environment and the question of peace. By creating new venues for peace-making with the revolutionary National Democratic Front of the Philippines through cooperation in the rehab and development of mining-affected areas within their territories, Lopez demonstrated how to address the roots of armed conflict through genuine social and economic reforms.
Duterte, who has shown commitment in constructively pursuing the peace talks with the NDFP, should realize that he will need not only a partner for change but also a partner for peace in the DENR. Forging the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) currently under negotiations in the peace talks will serve to mandate the pursuit of peace based on social justice, and also strike at the economic and political influence of corporations and oligarchs right in the heart.
At the end of the day, it is up to the Filipino people especially in the frontline communities to bring the passion of Gina Lopez to life. We are the first and last line of defense against the attacks of corporations and oligarchs which use the full force of the unjust, pro-foreign and pro-corporate laws and policies against our communities and environment. We must intensify our resistance to destructive projects, programs, and policies as our act of defiance to the machinations of corporations and trapos.
Whatever fate has in store for Lopez, her indomitable fighting spirit will always be welcome in the pickets, barricades, and protests of the people against the destruction of the environment and plunder of natural resources. At the end of the day, it is the people’s collective action that topples oligarchs and plunderers.