Who’s afraid of the min­ers?

Sun.Star Pampanga - - OPINOIOPNINION -

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.

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