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Gina Lopez: Investing in natural resources can help ease poverty

MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has other plans for the country's environment sector beyond her crackdown on mining companies that violate environmental standards.

One of the plans that excites her is going into business with one of the environment department's government-owned and controlled companies, the Natural Resources Development Corporation (NRDC).

"I'm very much into enterprise development. I like business," she said during a meeting with reporters on Wednesday, July 27.

"Government can't do business, but NRDC can, and it's a government institution under [the Department of Environment and Natural Resources]," Lopez added.

She cited as example the indigenous peoples in Palawan. Since these communities don't have money to invest in their natural resources, Lopez said Chinese traders provide the capital and use the IPs' rights to be able to get the resources in that land.

"Who gets the money? Not the indigenous people. Now what is the indigenous peoples' rights for joint venture with NRDC? And I'm not really interested with the money, which means that if they lack the capital, if they lack the financial resources, we can give it, the government corporation, which means you can go into a joint venture with them," she explained.

The NRDC is mandated "to promote investments in natural resource-based industries by providing financial, technical and management assistance." 

Replication

Following the success story of the La Mesa Ecopark, Lopez said she wants to replicate this kind of entrepreneurial venture in all areas covered by the country's National Greening Program. 

"La Mesa Ecopark is making P40 million a year. Why? They made it really beautiful," she added. (READ: Gov’t to restore Laguna Lake to ‘original, pristine condition’)

ABS-CBN Foundation's Bantay Kalikasan partnered with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and the Quezon City government to rehabilitate and renovate a public park located outside the La Mesa Watershed which was later renamed La Mesa Ecopark in 2004.

"All income generated by La Mesa Ecopark is utilized for the continuous preservation and protection of La Mesa Watershed," Bantay Kalikasan said in its website.

Lopez envisions an enterprise development wherein the net income will go back to the community. While the proposal still needs approval from President Rodrigo Duterte, she is optimistic the President "will say yes because he is for the people."

"DENR can be a great tool for poverty alleviation in areas where there are environmental concerns," she explained.

"I'm very, very excited about that because business is the way to go. You need to make money because you can't give people money all the time, and I think if in all environmental areas, we put in a spirit of enterprise, then the people will benefit." – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

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.

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