Decision to close mines came from 'foundation of love' – Lopez
MANILA, Philippines – After facing tough grilling from members of the Commission on Appointments (CA), Environment Secretary Gina Lopez defended her controversial decision to close mines in watersheds, saying this was a decision that came from a "foundation of love."
In a Facebook post on Sunday, March 12, just before she left for a retreat abroad, Lopez recalled how one CA member had described her move to order the closure or suspension of 28 mines – a decision that caused uproar in the mining industry – as a "death penalty."
Lopez said she was "taken aback" at how her action was perceived.
"I remember replying that it was not a dictatorial, violent decision but one done out of compassion for people. When watershed functions of food, water, agriculture are put at risk, life is put at risk," she said.
"It continues to strike me how decisions coming from a foundation of love and towards the life and well-being of our people have been viewed so negatively," she added.
For two days, Lopez faced questions and criticism from the CA, which has yet to confirm her appointment as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The staunch environmental advocate faced questions on her decision to shut down or suspend 28 mine operations, and was quizzed on the definition of watersheds, which she declared as "no-go zones" for mining.
But Lopez faces staunch opposition from the mining industry. The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said she's "unfit" and "unqualified" for the post.
San Juan City Representative and vice chairman of the CA committee on environment and natural resources Ronaldo Zamora also said he is not satisfied with Lopez's replies to the commission's questions.
Zamora is the brother of Manuel Zamora, who owns Nickel Asia Corporation, one of the most successful mining companies in the world. (READ: Mining magnate Zamora to Lopez: I've never 'killed a mountain')
In her Facebook post, Lopez reiterated that she is not against mining, but that she would be "non-negotiable" when it comes to the common good.
"I have said it before and I say it again, I am not against mining. But mining in island ecosystems with corals and rivers and streams and biodiversity – plus in a country which is the number one country vulnerable to climate change... cannot be treated as mining in the outbacks," she said.
"Mining that could have survived in other countries has to be intricately different in this. Our people's lives simply cannot and must be sacrificial lambs for the money people want to make," she added.
Despite the opposition to her appointment, Lopez retains the support of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Two days after the CA hearing, Duterte said he would "rather follow Gina" even if mining contributes "P70 billion" to government coffers.
"I would rather follow Gina... Get the 70 billion somewhere else and preserve our environment," the President said.
"Huwag na tayong magbolahan. Maghanapbuhay na lang tayo ng iba." (Let's not kid ourselves. Let's just get other means of livelihood.)
Lopez, for her part, said in another Facebook post that she was "deeply and profoundly touched" by the President's support. – Rappler.com