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MANILA, Philippines – Former environment secretary Gina Lopez on Monday, September 4, appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte not to allow the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining.
"Sir, open-pit mining will really disadvantage the Filipino, our farmers and fishermen, forever, for life. Please, it violates the constitutional rights of our people, please don't allow it to be lifted," Lopez said on Monday.
Lopez believes the President – the "boss" of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) – "really cares for people" and is "courageous enough to step on business interests."
"I'm thankful that the President said that after Marawi, he's gonna look at the mining (sector), and he said that he won't allow the people (affected by mining) to suffer, but if he allows MICC to lift the ban, it's gonna be really, really bad if MICC lifts the ban, and that's my worry because it's chaired by a person who used to be the lawyer of the mines, and the co-chair clearly has mining inclinations," she said.
Lopez was referring to Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
Last Tuesday, August 29, the environment department's Mines and Geosciences Bureau told lawmakers they are consulting with the MICC regarding the proposal to lift the ban on open-pit mining which Lopez put in place before she was rejected by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA).
In an open letter to the MICC, Lopez listed down the reasons for the ban:
She urged the MICC to address the issues she raised in her open letter.
"We already have many open pits here. Tama na (Stop this already). To lift the ban and put more open pits? Tama na (Stop this already)," Lopez said during Monday's press conference.
Lopez said if mining operators cannot find another way to get minerals other than open-pit mining, "then don't do it."
"Because our people's lives are more important than the money you wanna make. Mining is not a right, it's a privilege. In manifesting that privilege, you cannot advesely affect our right, the Filipino right, to a clean and healthy environment. It's our right, that supersedes any amount of money that you wanna make," she added.
Asked if she has a message for Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Lopez thinks he is "being careful" especially after what happened to her at the CA.
"You look at what happened to me, I didn't get confirmed, so I think he's playing it very careful," she explained. (READ: DENR still reviewing suspensions, closures of mines)
She added: "And he hasn't gone around. Ako inikot ko talaga lahat e, nakita ko, kinausap ko 'yung mga farmers, mangingisda, at alam ko, alam ko kasi na-feel ko, kasi na-meet ko sila, that's why I feel emotional. And the disadvantage of this open pits is it's gonna be there forever, forever."
(And he hasn't gone around. I went around, I saw it, I talked to the farmers, the fishermen, and I know, I know because I felt it, because I've met them, that's why I feel emotional.) – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.