MANILA, Philippines – “It is very sad that, in the Commission on Appointments, clearly business interests have run the day.”
Fighting back tears after the CA thumbed down her appointment as Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary, Gina Lopez lamented her rejection during a press conference on Wednesday, May 3.
Eight CA members voted for her appointment while 16 voted to reject her appointment.
She said Filipinos deserve a clean and healthy environment. (READ: Palace on CA rejection of Gina Lopez: ‘It’s a democratic process’)
Lopez said, “It is the constitutional right of every Filipino to a clean and healthy environment. It is our right in the Constitution, and that is premiere above all. And it is the duty of government to grant our people this right. When people make choices influenced [by] and based on business interests transgressing the right of every Filipino to what God has given them, it is wrong.”
Taking the CA to task, she added, “How can a body which is mandated to make decisions based on the common good, make decisions based on business interests?”
She also said she would advocate for President Duterte to become DENR Secretary, as she “can’t think of any other person; you know, it needs guts, it needs tapang (courage). You have to step on business interests.”
The first complaint, filed by Air Board Company and a consumers’ group, alleged Lopez did not act on the defective air monitoring equipment of the environment department. The second, filed by the Chamber of Mines, accused her of violating due process in ordering the closure and suspension of mining operations.
The third, filed on March 16, accused Lopez of influencing the Department of Energy to award a $100-million government project to a private company she favored, and getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris out of the transaction. The fourth, filed by Lorna Kapunan on behalf of Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation (CMDC), accused Lopez of requiring CMDC to pay “two million [pesos] per hectare of alleged disturbed land” to a trust fund.
Duterte had previously reappointed Lopez twice after she was bypassed by the CA.
What hope do the poor have?
Discussing her DENR order on mine stockpiles, which would require suspended mining companies to give P2 million for every hectare of farmland affected by their activities, she said laws should not be blindly followed, and clarified that these funds are for those out of the rehab area that is not covered by existing laws. She said it was “the right thing to do.” (READ: Lopez hits Medialdea for ‘counteracting’ order on mine stockpile)
“There are laws and regulations and I will follow the law, and I committed to all the senators and congressmen I will follow the law. But when we decide what laws – there are thousands of laws – so we decide how to navigate but at the end of the day…the laws are there to service our people. It’s not meant to be followed blindly!” she said.
She added, “Why are you choosing the law that our farmers will suffer?”
Lopez continued blasting those who rejected her appointment, saying, “If our lawmakers don’t stand by the God-given right of every Filipino to a clean and healthy environment, what hope do we have?”
She added, “If government co-opts to big business, which I think it has – some of them – then what hope do the poor have? And listen, what message are we giving here? ‘If you want to be confirmed, never go against big business.’ That’s what you’re saying.”
Lopez explained, “Who suffers if you kill the environment? It’s the poor. And whose duty is it to protect our people? It’s the government. And when you make decisions based on business interests, you have shirked your responsibility. You have lost the moral ascendancy to rule the government because to you business and mining is more important than the welfare of the people.” – Rappler.com