By BENJIE OLIVEROS
A major online daily reported that mere days after the rejection of former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez by the Commission on Appointments of Congress, a mining firm cut thousands of trees, both young and centuries-old, at Brookes Point, Palawan. And it was done in a protected area of Mount Mantalingajan, which is also a watershed.
Well, there is a word for this: impunity. First, the powerful mining lobby was able to have Gina Lopez removed as head of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) because she ordered the closure of 23 mines and the suspension of operations of 5 mines. These were found to be violating environmental laws. Of the 23 mining operations recommended for closure, 15 are in watershed areas.
Adding more reasons for mining companies to hate her, Lopez also announced a ban on open pit mining, the notorious practice of mining companies of leveling mountains to get the minerals under it, with less cost.
Second, even when the suspension was still in force, mining companies refused to comply.
And now this: a mining company cut thousands of trees just like that, without any regard for the environmental impact of what it did. Even the highest local official of Brookes Point, Mayor Jean Feliciano could not stop this destruction and was even barred from entering the premises by the mining firm.
This shows the power of mining companies and their total disregard for the environment and the welfare of future generations.
Looks like newly appointed Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu has his work cut out for him. Upon learning about the cutting down of trees, Cimatu reportedly responded that he would meet with the DENR staff to look into the matter.
What Secretary Cimatu does at this point would be indicative of the direction the DENR would take under his watch. If he calls for a thorough investigation and hold those responsible to account, then environmentalists could expect a continuation of the positive gains began by Lopez in protecting the country’s environment. If Cimatu ignores the issue and starts explaining the side of the mining firm then it would be business as usual for the extractive mining industry.
All eyes are now on newly appointed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and of course, the Duterte administration. Because while publicly, President Duterte expressed support for former Environment Sec. Gina Lopez and her policies, his party mates and allies in Congress voted to reject the appointment of Secretary Lopez.