The rejection of Gina Lopez is a rejection of change

Yeb Saño

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The rejection of Gina Lopez is a rejection of change
'Her rejection as Department of Environment Natural Resources Secretary shows how destructive industries continue to hold Philippine lawmakers by their necks'

The rejection of Gina Lopez as Department of Environment Natural Resources (DENR) secretary by the Commission on Appointments (CA) is very disappointing and worrying, and shows how destructive industries continue to hold Philippine lawmakers by their necks.

We were made to believe, through her appointment last year, that reforms, environmental protection, and social justice are still possible in this country. We thought that this administration is serious in implementing change by appointing a true environmentalist in the DENR.

But the CA, dominated by politicians with questionable loyalty, some of whom are receiving campaign contributions from various mining interests, blocked what could have been the golden era of Philippine environmental rehabilitation and protection under Lopez.

The rejection undermines the reforms the current administration is pushing and could be an indicator of factions between those who have benefited from old corrupt practices and those who are genuinely advancing for true, genuine, and people-centered changes.

As a country with scarce forests left, and with dwindling natural resources, turning to extracting minerals as a solution to poverty is superfluous at the very least, and glaringly reveals the short-sighted mindset, if not corrupt interests, of our politicians. With mining having a serious impact on our water resources, the situation demands that we weigh which is more important: money or life.

The next major battle will be fought over water, not gold. And Lopez has chosen right: she must stand proud over those who choose the foolish and obtuse option of trying to solve poverty by destroying the environment.

While the CA members were worried about the legality of Lopez’s mining audit and ignored the other reforms she has officiated in the agency, they seem to forget about the Filipino’s constitutional right to a clean and healthful ecology. The Commission’s double standards show where the true loyalty of its members’ lie: nitpicking on legalities and standards when Gina chose to protect the environment, when those laws and standards were not applied when big industries were destroying the environment. Lopez but upheld and pushed for our right to breathe clean air, to drink clean water, and to live in a clean and safe environment.

Her appointment inspired us last year. Her rejection today inflamed us to do more, and to further push for other urgent environmental issues,:

  • Stopping the proliferation of coal
  • Arresting coastal reclamation
  • Pushing for a pollution release and transfer registry (PRTR)
  • Addressing plastic pollution
  • Wildlife trafficking
  • Waste importation and the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment
  • Oposing waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies
  • Going after illegal fishers and supporting small fishermen and poor Filipinos

When someone is ill and dying, you don’t take his wallet and rob him. You try to do everything you can to revive him. Our environment is dying, and our politicians choose to rob it more.

The greed of the powerful few has won this round, but we consider this a temporary setback. We at the environmental movement will carry on boldly, for our rights, our environment, and our future. – 

Naderev ‘Yeb’ Saño is the Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.  

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