Miners rejoice, environment groups fume over rejection of Gina Lopez
MANILA, Philippines – Miners rejoiced while environment groups expressed outrage over the Commission on Appointments’ rejection of Gina Lopez as environment secretary on Wednesday, May 3.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), among those that strongly opposed Lopez’s appointment, thanked the CA for its decision.
"This is not the end, but rather the beginning of a new chapter for the mining industry," COMP said in a statement on Wednesday.
With the Philippines being the world's biggest supplier of nickel ore and a major source of copper, Lopez's campaign on mining had impacted global commodity prices.
COMP members were affected by Lopez’s order to suspend or close 28 mining operations after a controversial mining audit of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Last week, Lopez announced a ban on open-pit mining, which would have sounded the death knell for one of the world's biggest planned copper projects in the south of the country.
Mining Inc had run a high-profile campaign to have the CA reject her, arguing she was jeopardizing the lives of 1.2 million people who were dependent on the industry.
Lopez had repeatedly said that her policies were anchored on ensuring "social justice." (READ: DENR's Lopez: 'I won't allow people to suffer')
Environment groups slammed the CA decision, saying Lopez’s fate showed the true colors of the Duterte administration in relation to mining.
"The rejection demonstrates the continued control of powerful destructive industries such as mining in the country's legislative houses, and the reform promised to Filipinos is a sham," the Green Thumb coalition, grouping dozens of environment groups, said in a statement.
"It clearly shows where the heart of the Duterte administration is, and clearly it is manifested with big and powerful mining companies,” it added.
The Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) called for the disclosure of the votes in the powerful CA, whose members voted on Lopez through secret balloting, in an executive session. (READ: Is someone lying? CA votes on Gina Lopez don't add up)
"The poisonous politics of mining plunderers succeeded in tilting the CA numbers game to their favor. The legislators who voted 'No' against Sec Lopez should be fully disclosed and exposed as greedy trapos who continue to betray the interests of the Filipino public," it said.
Kalikasan PNE said there should be an investigation into these lawmakers’ "interests in mining and other extractive industries, the only possible motive for rejecting an environmental crusader as DENR secretary."
It also urged President Rodrigo Duterte to ensure the continuity of Lopez’s reforms in the mining industry.
Rejection of change
The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) said the 13 lawmakers who voted to reject Lopez's confirmation had "betrayed" the people.
"This decision of the Commission of Appointments is a disservice to our people. The 13 members of the CA who rejected Gina Lopez should be held accountable for siding with the business and corporate interests who make billions of money in the destruction of our planet and suffering of our people," said Ian Rivera, National Coordinator of PMCJ.
Yeb Saño, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said: “The rejection of Gina Lopez is a rejection of change. Her rejection as DENR Secretary by the Commission on Appointments is very disappointing and worrying, and shows how destructive industries continue to hold Philippine lawmakers by their necks.”
Oceana, the world’s largest marine conservation nonprofit, lauded the achievements of Lopez during her short stint as DENR chief.
“Secretary Lopez has set the highest standards for environmental stewardship and mainstreamed partnerships with civil society organizations – a feat that merits replication by her successor,” Oceana said in a statement.
In the Senate, Senator Francis Pangilinan, Liberal Party president, said the rejection of Lopez as environment chief is "saddening and disheartening." LP senators voted in favor of the confirmation of Lopez, he said.
"The decision not to confirm Secretary Lopez is a rejection of the significant change that this administration had promised. We lost the chance to have a DENR chief that will truly care, give protection, and further foster our environment and natural resources," Pangilinan said. – With a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
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