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DENR’s Gina Lopez unyielding amid threats to block her appointment

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 2/16/2017 Gorgonio, Luis
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez tells reporters on Thursday, August 11, 2016, she will make sure this administration will not allow the $5.9-billion Tampakan gold-copper mine to take off. The largest mining project in the country and one of the world’s largest copper mines will only benefit big business and not the people of South Cotabato, according to the feisty Cabinet official. Roy Lozano © Roy Lozano Environment Secretary Gina Lopez tells reporters on Thursday, August 11, 2016, she will make sure this administration will not allow the $5.9-billion Tampakan gold-copper mine to take off. The largest mining project in the country and one of the world’s largest copper mines will only benefit big business and not the people of South Cotabato, according to the feisty Cabinet official. Roy Lozano

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has remained firm in her decision to close "destructive mining" operations in the country, brushing aside threats from groups wanting to block confirmation of her appointment.

In an interview on "State of the Nation (SONA)" by Jessica Soho on Wednesday night, Lopez said, "Bahala na. I can't do anything. I really feel there should be no mining in watersheds and I keep my stand. Let them do what they want to do."

Lopez's move to shut down over 20 "erring" mining operations and her cancellation of the environmental clearance certificates (ECC) of  $5.9-billion Tampakan project, as well as 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA), has drawn the ire of big mining interest.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CMP), one of the groups strongly opposed to Lopez's "anti-mining" policies, reportedly wrote to lawmakers on February 13 saying that "she does not have the administrative experience and competence to lead the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and has a poor track record in leading and managing environmental and eco-tourism projects."

Asked by Jessica Soho if she is "anti-mining" as the CMP claimed, Lopez said, "I'm pro-people and pro-common good.  Fifteen of the operations that we closed are in watershed [areas] ... And then the 75 MPSAs that we withdrew, and they were not operating anyway, are in watersheds."

She also claimed that big miners, after extracting the minerals just leave the mining areas and environment destroyed, un-restored.

But CMP vice president for legal and policy matters Atty. Ronald Recidoro told Jessica Soho in a separate interview on SONA that miners restored the mining areas after their operations.

"Matapos po natin tanggalin lahat ng minerals underground, responsibilidad po ng minero na ibalik yung kanyang tinanggal na lupa, taniman ito ng bagong puno at ibalik lahat ng kanyang dinis-place na hayop at halaman doon sa lugar."

He lamented that Secretary Lopez only showcased mining areas that are still active and are not really good to see.

"Kasi ang ipinapakita niya ngayon mga active mining areas. Ang active mining areas, ako na po ang unang magsasabi sa inyo, pangit po talaga [tingnan] yan," he said.

But Lopez denied Recidoro's claim saying, "That's why we took it. You saw the date. I took it myself. I mean, I have a cameraman. January 17, January 18. That was two weeks ago."

But big players in the mining industry had assailed Lopez's moves, prompting Malacañang to intervene and put on hold DENR's shut down and closure orders, saying it will look into whether the move followed "due process."

But adamant Lopez said, "My stand is that the quality of life of people, the water for agriculture, the water for drinking, is more important than any of the money they make."

"And, anyway, with whatever money they make, 82 percent of whatever they put in the net revenue goes to them and then 95 percent of that money goes out of the local economy. So who needs investments like these that will kill our river, our stream?" she stressed. —LBG GMA News

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