MANILA, Philippines — Secretary Gina Lopez offered a “way forward” with the mining industry which has strongly opposed her appointment as the head of the country’s Environment department.
Speaking at her confirmation hearing, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary said she is willing to work with mining companies that did not damage the environment.
Lopez also clarified that she was not anti-mining and would even support responsible companies.
“I'm not against responsible mining. I'm more than willing I'm even desirous of working with the mining companies that are doing a good job,” Lopez said at the conclusion of her more than eight-hour hearing in which she faced 23 groups and individuals that have expressed their opposition to her appointment.
Lopez said that she understood where indigenous people (IPs) opposing her appointment were coming from.
She said: “I understand their situation. They have families. They have to survive. I understand the passion, the intensity of their feelings because they have to survive.”
Lopez is facing strong opposition to her designation as the head of DENR. President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his support for Lopez on Wednesday and said that she should be given a chance to prove her case.
Last month, Lopez held a press conference in which she announced the closure of 28 mining operations in the country. This order is expected to result in huge revenue losses for local government units (LGUs) hosting the mining sites and massive displacement of people currently working in the mining industry.
Lopez also told panel members that she is not looking for a fight with any one or any group.
“I don’t want to fight with people. I just feel that we should not kill the resources for our future,” she told Commission on Appointment (CA) members.
Members of the CA censured Lopez, saying that she should ensure that her actions were legal.
Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato reminded Lopez that it is the job of the executive to execute laws while the legislature crafts them.
Lopez also revealed that the department had already charged 119 erring officials while 17 had already been removed from their posts.
The DENR secretary told the CA that she would like to expand the social and economic impact of responsible mines by using their social development and management program (SDMP) funds to spur area development.
“I'm not against responsible mining. I'm more than willing I'm even desirous of working with the mining companies that are doing a good job. I would like to work with them in the sphere of area development to expand the level of their economic impact and social impact,” she said.
Lopez also lamented the division of the country between those in favor of and against mining.
“What I see here is a nation divided. Is it not wise to embark on a path of healing where everyone benefits?”
She said that these divisions would not heal for as long as the country was on a path where some people benefited while many people suffered.