Environmentalists to pro-mining groups: Secretary Lopez a blessing

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 February) – Calling her a “blessing”, environmentalists have come to the defense of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez from pro-mining groups who are determined to block her confirmation as a cabinet member by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA).

The CA will decide on Lopez’s appointment to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Wednesday.

Chinkie Pelino-Golle, Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) acting executive director said Lopez is a blessing for her efforts to protect the environment and the people.

Lopez only fulfilled her duty when she closed 23 mining firms and terminated 75 mineral sharing production agreements, she said in a statement Tuesday.

Golle, a co-convenor of the Sustainable Davao Movement, said the environmentalists will gather at 3:00 p.m. Wednesday outside Ateneo de Davao University for a mass mobilization called “Kumpirma: People’s Confirmation of Secretary Gina Lopez”.

“As DENR Secretary, it is her duty to implement environmental laws to ensure environmental protection and sustainable management. Above all, it is her duty to promote social justice and uplift the right of the people to a healthy and balanced ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature as enshrined in our Constitution,” she said.

“After so many administrations, we are glad to have someone who can truly administer the mandate of her office – to protect, conserve, and sustainably manage the country’s environment and natural resources for the benefit of the present and future generations,” she added.

She said they support her crusade to secure the environmentally critical areas like watersheds, protected areas and agricultural lands while noting that mining inflicts suffering and injustice on the affected communities.

She cited how human activities have aggravated the impact of calamities in the last decade on the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Filipinos.

“These occurrences are natural. However, human activities contribute to the disastrous effect of these natural calamities – a human induced disaster,” she said.

Golle said Lopez must be given the chance to work for the betterment of the environment and rehabilitate the mining communities.

In press statement on February 20, party-list organization Anak Mindanao, also expressed support for Lopez and called on Mindanawons to back her up.

“Anak Mindanao opines that the closure order is long overdue and as a progressive organization, AMIN underscores the negative repercussions of the present mining practices to the environment and it does not conform to the principles of sustainable development, especially in Mindanao,” it said.

Mindanao Business Council chair Vicente Lao said his group expressed serious concern on the possible effects of the closure such as loss of jobs and livelihood.

“We strongly believe that the welfare and livelihood of millions of poor Filipino families in the affected mining communities should take precedent over the advocacy of a single cabinet secretary who has manifested gross bias against the operation of a lawful industry that has contributed greatly to the upliftment of the lives and future of poor Filipinos in the countryside,” he said.

He said that they are calling for equal procedural transparency, fairness and observance of the rule of law in the audit of mining operations..

He added that the council acknowledges the contribution of the mining industry to the country’s development, describing it as a “critical ingredient” that will facilitate “greater economic growth, attracting investments, creating jobs and reducing poverty in the region, particularly in the rural areas.”

He assured the government the council will continue to promote responsible development of the mineral resources in Mindanao and optimize the industry’s contributions to the country’s development.

“The MBC will continue to clamor for transparency and stronger accountability among the key players in the mining industry as we continue to monitor their social, environmental, and economic performance,” he said.

In a note posted on its website earlier this month, the research group IBON Foundation refuted the supposed economic benefits of large-scale mining

“While mineral exports hit a high of $3.4 billion in 2013, mining contributed a measly 0.7 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) in the same year. The sector’s contribution grew to this level only from 0.5 percent after more than a decade of operations.

“The annual average share of mining revenues to total government revenues in 2009-2012 was only 1.18 percent. The contribution of the mining and quarrying sector to employment was also negligible at 0.7 percent of total employment,” IBON said.

“Aside from human deaths, large-scale mining has caused damaged dams, soil and water pollution due to excessive tailings, siltation, contamination and damage to agricultural lands, fish kill and other damages to marine life,” it said.

“More than 90 percent of Philippine mineral production is exported for use by other countries’ steel industries while the country has none. This, despite the Philippines being one of the world’s top producers of gold, copper and nickel,” it added. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)