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Cordillera IP group backs Lopez on mining

The mining industry has filed an opposition to the confirmation of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez due to her alleged bias against large-scale players. KRIZJOHN ROSALES, file
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — An indigenous people's group opposed to large-scale mining has thrown its support behind Environment Secretary Gina Lopez for deciding to close and suspend some mining companies.
 
“No [Department of the Environment and Natural Resources] secretary has ever done this before—to make a decision for social justice for all communities who have been demanding for a stop to the operations of  mining companies that have historically violated indigenous peoples’ rights, destroyed and plundered ancestral lands and the natural resources therein, said Igorot leader Abigail Anongos, secretary general of the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA).
 
Anongos said they are supporting Lopez in cancelling 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements in watershed areas, five of which are located in the Cordillera region. 
 
“In fact, mining companies should not be allowed to operate in the Cordillera because the Cordillera is the watershed area of the entire Northern Luzon,” she said.
 
The CPA is also hoping that DENR will also recommend that instead of just a suspension, Lepanto Mining should actually be included to the list of 23 mining companies for closure. 
 
Anongos said that “80 years of Lepanto’s operations have polluted and silted the Abra River and destroyed people’s agriculture. Lepanto’s operations brought in militarization, resulting to many human rights violations to the people of Mankayan.”
 
Also,  Anongos added,  “in addition to  its envienmental crimes, Philex Mining should in fact be included in the list of those up for closure.”  Three years ago, Philex’s tailings pond 3 collapsed and dumped 50,000 tons of tailings into the river, making it the worst mining disaster in the country in recent history.
 
The DENR, Anongos urged, must now also work for the rehabilitation and compensation of mining-affected indigenous communities.
 
Lopez faces confirmation hearings at the congressional Commission on Appointments for her post as Environment secretary.
 
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has filed an official opposition to her confirmation, sayign she has "an undeniable bias against and antagonism towards large-scale mining, rendering her unfit and incapable of a responsible, fair, just and balanced implementation of the Constitution, the Philippine Mining Act and related laws and regulations, and of upholding personal interest and advocacies over public interest."
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