Me­di­aldea gets back­ing vs Gina over min­ing fund

The Philippine Star - - NEWS - By DELON PORCALLA – With Paolo Romero, Rho­d­ina Vil­lanueva

Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary Sal­vador Me­di­aldea yes­ter­day found some support from Rep. Robert Ace Bar­bers in his order to sus­pend the P2mil­lion trust fund that En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Gina Lopez or­dered im­posed for ev­ery hectare of land dis­turbed by min­ers.

“She has to un­der­stand that this is all part of due process. Min­ing com­pa­nies ap­pealed to the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent (OP), there­fore, it is only im­per­a­tive that they be given im­me­di­ate re­lief un­til the Pres­i­dent de­cides on the pe­ti­tions,” Bar­bers said.

The Suri­gao del Norte con­gress­man clar­i­fied that Me­di­aldea’s de­ci­sion to sus­pend “is not an op­po­si­tion to Lopez’s pro­posed ad­di­tional mine fund” as the “ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary has ju­ris­dic­tion over ap­peals filed with the OP.”

“I firmly be­lieve that Me­di­aldea de­ferred the mine fund not be­cause he coun­ters Pres­i­dent Duterte’s pol­icy against de­struc­tive min­ing op­er­a­tions, but be­cause the pe­ti­tions cen­ter on this con­tro­ver­sial trust fund,” Bar­bers added.

Lopez the other day slammed Me­di­aldea for “coun­ter­act­ing” her order for min­ing firms to set up a P2-mil­lion trust fund for farm­ers af­fected by de­struc­tive min­ing as a pre-con­di­tion to the re­moval of stock­piles from min­ing ar­eas and is­suance of ex­port per­mits.

The DENR chief said the Palace of­fi­cial is go­ing against Duterte’s thrust of help­ing the poor by al­low­ing min­ing com­pa­nies to re­move their stock­piles from mine sites even with­out pay­ing P2 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion for af­fected farm­ers.

“Me­di­aldea has given a di­rec­tive to all the min­ing com­pa­nies coun­ter­act­ing my order and I’m re­ally not happy about this at all. He has gone against my order and I don’t know what he’s think­ing,” Lopez told en­vi­ron­ment re­porters in a news brief­ing.

Me­di­aldea de­nied con­tra­dict­ing Duterte’s stand against de­struc­tive min­ing poli­cies.

“He is say­ing that min­ing com­pa­nies can go ahead and take the stock­piles and there’s no need to put money for the farm­ers. Is that even fair?” Lopez was quoted say­ing.

Lopez said that based on in­for­ma­tion gath­ered by her team, min­ing com­pa­nies have started re­mov­ing their ore stock­piles with­out giv­ing any amount as a re­sult of Me­di­aldea’s order.

“Since I gave the order, my team can stop them (from ex­port­ing). But now that Me­di­aldea has placed the order, I can­not do any­thing. He coun­ter­acted each and ev­ery order in all ar­eas and I can’t do any­thing about it,” Lopez said.

Lopez, who was reap­pointed after be­ing by­passed by the Com­mis­sion on Ap­point­ments (CA) when Con­gress went on re­cess last March 18, added that she has al­ready texted Spe­cial As­sis­tant to the Pres­i­dent Bong Go re­gard­ing the is­sue but the lat­ter has not replied yet.

Sen. Loren Le­garda vowed to fight for her con­fir­ma­tion after Mala­cañang on Mon­day an­nounced that Duterte has reap­pointed Lopez, Agrar­ian Re­form Sec­re­tary Rafael Mar­i­ano, So­cial Wel­fare Sec­re­tary Judy Tagui­walo and Health Sec­re­tary Paulyn Jean Ubial.

“I will support her (Lopez). I’ve sup­ported her from the be­gin­ning. I will con­tinue to support her. Her heart is in the right place and I hope that my col­leagues in the com­mis­sion will support her,” Le­garda told re­porters.

A for­mer news an­chor at the Lope­zowned ABS-CBN, Le­garda ex­pects the CA pro­ceed­ings on Lopez’s ap­point­ment will be dif­fi­cult even as she ap­pealed to her col­leagues in the bi­cam­eral body to con­sider her ap­point­ment.

Duterte will have to find a re­place­ment for Lopez if the CA opts to by­pass her ap­point­ment for the third time us­ing the body’s new “three-strike” rule. Con­gress re­sumes ses­sion on May 2.

Over 20 groups and in­di­vid­u­als have filed their for­mal op­po­si­tion to Lopez’s ap­point­ment to the CA on var­i­ous grounds, in­clud­ing grave abuse of au­thor­ity, ig­no­rance of the law, as well as graft.

Mean­while, a group of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists yes­ter­day ex­pressed support for Lopez’s plan to en­gage the New Peo­ple’s Army (NPA) in her project to make com­mu­ni­ties in Agu­san del Sur pro­duc­tive.

Cle­mente Bautista, national co­or­di­na­tor of Ka­likasan Peo­ple’s Net­work for the En­vi­ron­ment (Ka­likasan PNE), said Lopez’s “cru­sade against big min­ing, de­struc­tive projects, their apol­o­gists in govern­ment, can be the foun­da­tion of a com­mon pro­gram for en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion to­wards just and last­ing peace that the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion and the National Demo­cratic Front of the Philip­pines can agree upon and co-im­ple­ment.”

The group said Pres­i­dent Duterte should also “pur­sue green talks” with the NDF, say­ing that the DENR can take the ini­tia­tive in craft­ing a com­mon en­v­i­ron- men­tal re­form agenda with the rev­o­lu­tion­ary forces.

It added that the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion should take the cue from Lopez to step up ef­forts in gar­ner­ing support in craft­ing and im­ple­ment­ing a Com­pre­hen­sive Agree­ment on So­cial and Eco­nomic Reforms (CASER) with a strong em­pha­sis on en­vi­ron­men­tal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and pro­tec­tion.

The GRP-NDF peace pan­els con­vened a bilateral dis­cus­sion last April 20 to ac­cel­er­ate the ne­go­ti­a­tions over CASER, a pact that man­dates both sig­na­tory par­ties to im­ple­ment so­cial and eco­nomic re­form pro­grams on land re­form and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment, national in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, among others.

“Both the govern­ment and NDFP can im­ple­ment pri­or­ity en­vi­ron­men­tal reforms such as the en­force­ment of min­ing clo­sures and sus- pen­sion or­ders, the crack­down on il­le­gal and large-scale fish pens, and the sub­se­quent re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of af­fected ecosys­tems even be­fore the sign­ing of the CASER,” Bautista ex­plained.

He said the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion should pur­sue more en­vi­ron­men­tal reforms in his govern­ment such as the mas­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of marine ecosys­tems, re­for­esta­tion of de­nuded forests, job se­cu­rity and more ben­e­fits to govern­ment en­vi­ron­men­tal work­ers, and pro­vid­ing jus­tice to en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists killed and victims of en­vi­ron­men­tal tragedies.

The group held a mass action in front of the DENR main of­fice in Que­zon City fol­low­ing Lopez’s pro­nounce­ment that she is will­ing to work with the NPA in devel­op­ing Agu­san del Sur into an eco­log­i­cal, eco­nomic and ed­u­ca­tional zone or “E3” zone

Lopez said they are do­ing an area de­vel­op­ment plan for the en­tire Agu­san.

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