ABS-CBN’s Lopez accepts DENR post

Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - June 22, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Anti-mining advocate Gina Lopez has accepted the offer of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte to be the next secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“After much introspection, I decided to accept it,” Lopez said on the sidelines of an event at the ABS-CBN compound last night.

“I was surprised (because) I am not the usual choice. My stand on environment protection is clear,” she added.

Lopez was attending the presentation of awards for Excellence in Educational Transformation at the ABS-CBN compound when she abruptly left the venue to answer a phone call from Duterte.

“I just talked with him a few minutes ago,” she told reporters after her conversation with Duterte.

“I told him, sir, I just want you to know that I considered your proposal, I am deeply honored. It’s such a controversial decision, but you decided to trust me... I give you my firm commitment that I will do everything I can,” Lopez added.

Lopez chairs ABS-CBN’s charitable arm Lingkod Bayan Foundation and Pasig River Rehabilitation Council.

She said she was not expecting Duterte’s offer for the DENR post when she met with him on Monday in Davao City.

A staunch anti-mining advocate, Lopez said she would seek a dialogue with mining companies upon her assumption as environment secretary.

She said she would address climate change and air pollution as well as dynamite fishing and illegal logging.

“The first thing I want to do is clean the ranks of DENR. Those who are accepting bribes, your days are over,” she said.

The appointment of Lopez to the DENR came weeks after Duterte stressed the need for someone who can help him address the destruction of the environment caused by mining.

Duterte’s aide, outgoing Maribojoc, Bohol Mayor Jun Evasco, expressed his interest to head the agency.

Evasco was a former member of the New People’s Army before he became chief of staff of Duterte.

Evasco will serve as secretary to the Cabinet of the incoming administration.

Duterte warns mining firms

Duterte said Lopez, whom he described as “ardent for responsible mining,” met him Monday to talk about the impact of mining in some areas.

Duterte said mining companies should plant trees and wash away the chemicals they leave behind to avoid destroying the environment.

“If you don’t do it, I will cancel the permit,” he said.

Duterte said there would be a comprehensive review of all mining concessions to ensure that such activities would not be harmful to the environment.

“If you are into it, be sure you have enough resources or I’ll require you to go to Canada and Australia to learn how to mine precious metals,” the incoming president said.

“When you’re spoiling the land, I’ll cancel it (permit) without hesitation. That’s the bottom line,” he added.

Duterte clarified that he is not against mining but companies “have to do it right” because the precious metals belong to the Filipino people.

“If you cannot do it right, then get out,” he said.

Lopez’s appointment lauded

Meanwhile, environmental advocates lauded the appointment of Lopez to the DENR.

“Her track record on environmental causes cannot be questioned,” said former Puerto Princesa City mayor Edward Hagedorn.

“President-elect Duterte picked the right person to fight for what is right as she has proven with La Mesa Dam, Pasig River and her anti-mining stance that is consistent with what the president wants to happen,” Hagedorn said.

Lopez has been an ally in the fight against large-scale mining and coal projects across the country, Gerry Arances of the PMCJ said.

Sonia Mendoza, president of Mother Earth Foundation, welcomed the appointment of Lopez as the next DENR chief.

The Tagbalay foundation led by Nim Gonzales and SEED Institute president Anthony Abaya also lauded the designation of Lopez to the DENR post.

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said Lopez was instrumental in gathering 10 million signatures aimed at stopping mining in Palawan.

Kalikasan PNE national coordinator Clemente Bautista Jr. said they witnessed Lopez’s leadership and determination in protecting the environment.

“We linked arms with her in demanding justice for slain environmentalist Gerry Ortega,” Bautista said.

The group also lauded Lopez’s stand against the construction of coal power plants in the country. – With Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado, Artemio Dumlao, Rhodina Villanueva

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