In the likelihood that she is rejected by the Commission on Appointments (CA), Environment Secretary Gina Lopez’s exit is more a loss to President Duterte’s administration than to herself.
In fact, if what she is championing for is feasible enough for the administration to pursue, Lopez’s exit may be a loss to the Filipino people as well.
What perhaps makes her appointment untenable as far as the mining industry leaders and their allies in Congress are concerned is Lopez’s seemingly uncompromising stance against the continued, clearly destructive operations of the mining firms.
When asked by some of the lawmakers what would make her reconsider her closure order on some of the country’s mining firms, Lopez pointed to non-invasive mining methods such as using magnets to extract the minerals under the ground.
Other than that, Lopez is opposed to the current methods employed by the mining firms including open-pit mining, which she said is “horrific” and destructive to the environment since it uses explosives to dig deep into the earth.
But it’s not just mining that Lopez, a dyed-in-the-wool tree-hugging environmentalist, is concerned about though that is the issue she’s getting flak for due to the dislocation of thousands of families who benefit from the industry.
It was last year when Lopez visited the Inayawan landfill site in Cebu City and immediately ordered its closure despite Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s insistence that it should remain open to accommodate the city’s garbage.
And what about the coal plant project that was rejected by the Cebu City Council last year only to be revived by proponents for deliberations? We don’t know about the sentiments of the regional Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), but if they know Lopez’s hardline stance, it seems unlikely that they would issue an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for it.
Again, that all depends if Lopez stays put in her post, and based on his public pronouncements, President Duterte is backing her even if it means the country loses P70 billion in annual revenue from the mining industry.
But exactly how attuned is President Duterte to Lopez’s environmentalist stance especially in relation to coal plants? The President is known to favor coal plants even if these were being blamed for climate change, and by extension, this may bode favorably for the coal plant being proposed for Barangay Sawang Calero in Cebu City.
It’s only a matter of time before Lopez’s fate will be known, but it’s also important to gauge public opinion on her which supposedly tends ever so slightly in her favor.
Would the CA listen to public opinion or to the aggressive mining lobby which counts among its supporters the families of the displaced mining workers? That remains to be seen.
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