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Gina slams Medialdea over mining trust fund order

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said Medialdea is going against President Duterte’s thrust of helping the poor by allowing mining companies to remove their stockpiles from mine sites even without paying P2 million in compensation for affected farmers. King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo, File

MANILA, Philippines -  Environment Secretary Gina Lopez yesterday slammed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for “counteracting” her order for mining firms to set up a P2-million trust fund for farmers affected by destructive mining as precondition for the removal and export of their ore stockpiles.

Lopez said Medialdea is going against President Duterte’s thrust of helping the poor by allowing mining companies to remove their stockpiles from mine sites even without paying P2 million in compensation for affected farmers.

“Medialdea has given a directive to all the mining companies counteracting my order and I’m really not happy about this at all. He has gone against my order and I don’t know what he’s thinking,” Lopez said in a briefing yesterday. In a text message, Medialdea denied contradicting Duterte’s stand against destructive mining policies.

Lopez has issued a directive requiring each mining firm to open a trust fund account of P2 million for every hectare of exploited land before it would be allowed to remove stockpiles from mining areas and given export permits.

“Medialdea said that they (mining companies) can now remove the stockpiles. He is saying that mining companies can go ahead and take the stockpiles and there’s no need to put money for the farmers. Is that even fair?” she said.

“I just want to make sure that when the mine rehabilitation starts, farmers will have their own money. What will happen to the farmers out of the rehab area, who will take care of them? That’s my prerogative as DENR secretary and so why is he going against me?” Lopez added.

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The environment chief, reappointed by the President after being bypassed by the Commission on Appointments, said that based on information gathered by her team, mining companies have started removing their ore stockpiles without giving any amount as a result of Medialdea’s order.

“Since I gave the order, my team can stop them (from exporting). But now that Medialdea has placed the order, I cannot do anything. He counteracted each and every order in all areas and I can’t do anything about it,” Lopez said.

Lopez added that she has already texted Special Assistant to the President Bong Go regarding the issue but the latter has not replied yet.

“My heart resonates with the President because he loves the people so I stand by it. But the Cabinet is made up of many people. I don’t want to fight but when I’m giving an order to stop and you’re going against me, then I will really fight,” she said.  – With Mary Grace Padin, Alexis Romero

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