Who’s afraid of the miners?
Not Gina Lopez. One of the few good decisions made by President Duterte (even a dead clock is right twice a day, so someone humorously quipped) is appointing Lopez, a development wonk and environment advocate, as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Her latest action, issuing closure and cancellation orders on several mining firms, has roiled the mining industry and may have even surprised Duterte himself for her remarkable decisiveness and courage.
It’s no joke to fight big corporations and multinationals given their resources and clout. Note that the Senate, for all its propensity to conduct public hearing on big issues and controversies, appears to be unusually cautious, if not quiet on the matter.
But Lopez is bent on enforcing the law on environment, charging those at the receiving end of her unprecedented action, as violating the laws on mining and environment.
According to Lopez, among those ordered closed were mining companies damaging watersheds in Mindanao, releasing toxic substances into the rivers and the seas, and putting at real risk both the quality and way of life of the people nearby.
Her job is clear, her mission undeterred: protecting watersheds in the country, particularly in Mindanao where poverty is endemic and armed conflict seemingly endless, is nonnegotiable. Perhaps, things would have been different if those mining firms did not operate in the region? She didn’t say it but the nuanced implication was readable.
While the mining industry contributes to the national economy — about .6 percent — the local communities suffer as a result. Her argument: thousands may be employed by the firms but a lot more people are adversely affected, from farmers to fisher folks. In her calculus, the bad effects outweigh the good. As simple and as clear as that.
As to the big picture, 90 per cent of the wealth is taken out of the mining communities and taken somewhere else, much of its abroad, and the local communities merely get a pittance from the industry in return.
In the scheme of things, the poor, in the process, gets poorer and the rich even richer.
Because of her stand versus the mining firms – not mining per se— her fate now hang in the balance at the Commission on Appointment where the moneyed and powerful will be opposing her confirmation.
It will be a disservice to this country if the CA succumbs to insatiable vested interests which are clearly out to get rid of her.
Environment protection is critical not only quality of life but, in the long run, to our survival. It’s a worldwide concern or problem, underscored no less by the climate change phenomenon that is upsetting people’s way of life everywhere.