Miners’ victory at the CA will be short-lived
Gina Lopez is probably the only Cabinet appointee who has caught the imagination of the public. Over the last 10 months, people have cheered her on, inspired by the passion and determination with which she took on the Goliath that is Big Mining.
Not surprisingly, the miners have thrown all their resources at making sure she is not confirmed as Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources by the Commission on Appointments.
And on Tuesday, March 2, Big Mining will probably have the numbers to end Lopez’s brief but tumultuous reign, during which she closed down 22 mines, suspended 4, and issued show-cause orders to 77 others.
There will be several theories that people will advance for her defeat. Some will say she pushed too hard, too fast. But then President Duterte’s main reason for appointing her was her being a passionate crusader, and he has said this several times.
Some will say she didn’t play the appointments game. They’ll say she should have visited each member of the Commission on Appointments, played to their egos, and engaged in the game of making commitments and concessions, even if she did not mean to keep them. (READ: Are the odds stacked vs Gina Lopez in the CA?)
“Yasay visited me several, maybe 4 times,” said one congressman on the Commission, referring to the Duterte nominee, Perfecto Yasay Jr, who was ultimately turned down for the post of Secretary of Foreign Affairs. “Gina did not request even one meeting with me, and I doubt if she did with the others,” he commented.
But at this stage of her life as an advocate, the last thing Lopez wanted was to be a politician.
The President's token lobby
But undoubtedly, what made the difference is that the President did not go out of his way to personally lobby for her.
In such as close fight against powerful interests, presidential lobbying was the only thing that could have tilted the odds in Lopez’s favor. President Duterte failed to do this, worried perhaps that this would antagonize the Mindanao Mining Mafia represented by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, who had played such an important role in financing his campaign for the presidency.
In a commission where mining interests wield tremendous influence over politicians, especially in the House contingent, not lobbying for Lopez was taken as a signal by the politicians that the President was willing to ditch her.
But if the mining lobby thinks this is the end of the affair, they’re wrong.
Lopez’s campaign has caught the public imagination and the movement against irresponsible mining will only be encouraged to redouble its efforts by this debacle.
The movement has momentum.
We have only to look abroad to see the future. The same dogged efforts to protect the people and the environment resulted in the historic legislative ban that El Salvador imposed on metals mining a month ago.
Despite their effort to oust Lopez as DENR chair, the days of Big Mining in the Philippine are numbered. – Rappler.com
Walden Bello was co-author of the Mineral Management Bill in the 14th and 15th Congresses. He made the only recorded resignation-on-principle from Congress in March 2015 owing to principled differences with the Aquino III administration. He is the author or co-author of 20 books, the latest of which is State of Fragmentation: the Philippines in Transition. He is currently International Adjunct Professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton.