"The rejection demonstrates the continued control of powerful destructive industries, such as mining, in the country’s legislatives houses, and the reform promised to Filipinos is a sham," said the Green Thumb Coalition (GTC), in a statement.
Environmentalists to stage protests in Gina’s support
(The Freeman) - May 6, 2017 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - A deluge of nationwide protests will take off next week that would highlight environmentalists’ indignation against the Commission on Appointments' (CA) non-confirmation of Gina Lopez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"The rejection demonstrates the continued control of powerful destructive industries, such as mining, in the country’s legislatives houses, and the reform promised to Filipinos is a sham," said the Green Thumb Coalition (GTC), in a statement.

The GTC added the rejection showed the limited interpretation of legislators in implementing or enforcing environmental laws such as ISO 14001 certification by mining companies which does not translate into responsible mining.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, however, sees something good for the city with Lopez’s rejection.

Vince Cinches, the coalition's secretariat and ocean campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines, told The Freeman that aside from having a nationwide protest with other environmental groups, they also call for President Rodrigo Duterte to reinstate Lopez to the position.

He said they thought that Lopez’s supposed appointment is part of the commitment of the present administration to protect the environment especially against destructive mining activities and locally, on the several proposed reclamation projects in Cebu.

Members of Pangingisda Natin Gawing Tama (PaNaGaT), a network of non-government organizations and fisherfolk organizations, are greatly disappointed and dismayed by the non-confirmation of Lopez.

"Our constitutional rights to a healthy and balanced ecology has been betrayed and violated by the votes of the Commission on Appointments as they failed to see the genuine passion of Secretary Lopez to protect the environment," said PaNaGat in a separate statement.

Alvin Dizon, former Cebu City councilor and currently the convenor of the Sugboanong Nagpakabana sa Kalikupan (SNK), said the CA decision was a sad event for people who had been fighting for the protection of the environment and believing in Lopez as a “catalyst for change.”

“Her rejection by traditional politicians enraged us more to stand against the proposed coal plant project and further push for other environmental issues and concerns,” he added.

Dann Diez, co-founder of Cebu-based Pusyon Kinaiyahan (Alliance for Earth), said Lopez’s short tenure had institutionalized reforms not just in regulating strictly the mining industry but also upholding the constitutional rights of people in having a healthy environment.

“Her rejection by the CA manifested that people that has money wins over principles. She had awaken the more grassroots leaders to continue and great fervor to take a national movement creating People's Department for the environment,” he said.

Diez also pointed out that Lopez was instrumental in shutting down the questioned operations of the Inayawan Sanitary Landfill in Cebu City that has turned into a dumping site.

DENR-7 Regional Public Affairs Office Chief Dr. Eddie Llamedo, for his part, said the regional agency respects the decision of CA as a constitutional body mandated by the Philippine Constitution to determine the fitness and competence of a cabinet secretary.

“Although, this is the first time a DENR secretary didn't get a nod from the CA, but we continue to be very clear in our programs, projects and activities as stated in the 2017 general appropriations act. It's still business as usual,” he said.

Osmeña, on the other hand, sees something good with the rejection.

Osmeña believed that the statements of Lopez against the city’s landfill have “betrayed her competence.”

“My problems with her are not the same with the miners. But, I have my problems about the landfill closure because she made statements that I think betrayed her competence which she said the sea would rise eight meters,” he said.

“Number two, when she said that you cannot have a landfill beside the sea… Gina Lopez said it cannot be. Of course, I would question that. Who is she to say?” he told reporters.

“But basically, I have a natural aversion towards fanatics. She’s a fanatic. I don’t like fanatics. Any kind of fanatics, I don’t like,” he added.

Former City Councilor Ma. Nida Cabrera, Osmeña's consultant on environment matter, however, thinks otherwise.

But Cabrera said she admired Lopez's advocacy in protecting the environment.

"So, kung kinsa may mopuli ni Maam Gina, I hope pareha niya'g advocacy gyud para sa environment," Cabrera said.

Lopez had ordered the immediate closure of the landfill after seeing the situation of the facility.

Talisay City Mayor Eduardo Gullas said he respected the CA’s decision in rejecting Lopez.

But he described Lopez as a good environment secretary.

“Di lang ko mo-pass judgment why they reject her, pero okay kaayo si Gina.  No problem,” he said. — Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Jean Marvette A. Demecillo, May B. Miasco, Iris Mariani B. Algabre, NORSU Intern Larry V. Villarin (FREEMAN)

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