MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Monday, September 5, said she does not support any move to split the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) into two agencies.
The proposal was raised by Kabayan Representative Harry Roque Jr during the DENR’s budget hearing at the House Representatives.
“Do you think there is a need to separate now the Department of Environment from the Department of Natural Resources?” Roque asked Lopez.
He used mining as a case study to show the “apparent” need for two separate departments.
“There seems to be a natural conflict between a department that seeks to protect the environment, and a department that seeks to promote ultimate use of natural resources,” he explained.
Roque then asked if Lopez supports any legislative initiative to separate DENR “so you will not have a schizophrenic personality.”
“I don’t support this stand,” the environment secretary said.
Lopez added: “This is my stand: I believe that the resources of the Philippines should be utilized and enjoyed by the people of the Philippines. It’s all about choices.”
She said that while the country is blessed with “a lot of minerals,” it is also blessed with “agricultural lands” and “beauty.”
“In these areas, a choice has to be made…. If you divide it, mining and the use of our natural resources, you don’t allow those choices to be made,” she explained.
But Roque clarified that he suggested the separation precisely because a separate Department of Environment “will police those granted franchises by the state in exploiting natural resources.”
“They will make sure they will not violate environmental laws, whereas the system now is, because it’s one department, it’s very difficult to find that balance between sustainable development of natural resources and implementing the laws of the environment,” he explained.
Lopez still insisted “it’s better if we work together,” clarifying again that she is against the suffering of the people, and not the mining industry.
The DENR has suspended the operations of 10 mining sites since its audit began in July.
The department’s proposed budget for 2017 is P28.67 billion ($615.97 million)*. – Rappler.com
*US$1 = P46.54