DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 4 Aug) – Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez vowed to end illegal logging and mining operations in eight days with her “Duterte team for the environment” who will do the job.
Lopez told a press conference at the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) that she would copy Duterte’s war on drugs and criminality for the environment but assured she will work within the bounds of the law.
She bared that she is set to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on Monday next week with Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mike Sueño for a stricter implementation of environmental standards and monitoring of companies in the logging and mining industries.
“The MOA, in essence, commits that the police and the military will assist the DENR in the protecting the resources of the country, including the DILG. We will not allow any illegal activities that adversely affect the lives of the people,” she stressed.
Lopez said she would ensure to uphold the “rule of law and the common good” as she warned to close mining companies and punish illegal loggers who cause suffering to the people.
She put to task Peter Mutoc, a former chief of police at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), who she called as her “General Bato,” the moniker given to PNP chief Dela Rosa, to be the enforcing officer of the DENR’s Law Enforcement and Operations to ensure the cease and desist orders issued against erring companies are enforced.
Mutoc vowed to treat illegal loggers and miners just like the “drug pushers and miners.”
Lopez said they will review the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to better keep the companies in check and to scrutinize more effectively if they have the capacity to meet the rules.
The DENR, she added, is also completing audit of both the metallic and non-metallic mining companies that will come out next month.
Leo Jasareno, head of DENR’s Mining Audit Team, said that they will immediately stop the operations if proven they fall short in complying with regulatory standards.
According to Jasareno, the mining audit is a comprehensive assessment upon which they base “final judgment” whether to close or suspend the mining firms.
“The audit is not just technical. The audit is also social kung may komunidad na nagdurusa, kung may nagkakasakit hindi pwede yan. We are testing the water, the agriculture, the fishing kung palpak sila dyan, they are not following the law,” Lopez said.
She said that she wants to see social justice for the Filipino people, most especially the Mindanawons.
“My definition of social justice in the context of environment is that the resources of Mindanao must necessarily be enjoyed by the people of Mindanao,” the secretary said.
Lopez added she would like to tap civil society organizations (CSOs) to help in the DENR’s environmental efforts.
“I don’t want DENR to be just a regulatory agency. I wanna work with the people of Mindanao such that their recourses can lead to their quality of life,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)