Sec. Gina Lopez and the mining industry

 

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez

We all know that President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Ms. Gina Lopez as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the strength of her intensely passionate and unwavering advocacy for green or eco-friendly environment.

No one can ever question her resolve in protecting the environment and in so doing making it clean and friendly to the people. We have seen her zeal and devotion when she served as chairperson of Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission and her involvement in Bantay Kalikasan (Nature Watch) which was launched as a response to the worsening state of the environment, especially in Metro Manila.

While many appreciate the idealism of Lopez for the environment, the same morals or philosophy, if you may, when applied to the mining companies in the country should have been tempered with greater understanding and rationality.

I am saying this because Lopez is now at the receiving end of the wrath expressed by some mining officials whose company was targeted for closure and/or suspension of operation for the reason that it has been causing havoc to the environment.

That Lopez has been the subject of displeasure and indignation by the mining companies, which is even affecting her confirmation as DENR secretary, is only fair and par for the course because its mining operation should have been vetted first on the context on whether or not they are International Standards Organization (ISO) compliant.

This should have been the due process extended to the mining companies instead of shutting them down unceremoniously.

There is no doubt Lopez knows about the ISO certification because she herself stated the following upon assuming the position from former DENR Secretary Ramon Paje: “ISO 14001 is one way of saying responsible mining.”

The ISO 14001 standard is the most important within the ISO 14000 series. ISO 14001 specifies the requirements of an environmental management system (EMS) for small to large organizations. An EMS is a systemic approach to handling environmental issues within an organization.

Lopez further added that the assessment will determine if mining operations are “… good to the people or are they killing the rivers, streams? Are they creating suffering to our farmers and fishermen? We have to evaluate it, but my stand on the common good is non-negotiable.”

The “non-negotiable” stand of Lopez can be likened to the shit hitting the fan!

This hardline policy/posturing of Lopez just won’t work especially if the mining industries earn billions of pesos for the country, creates job for the people in the community and contribute to the infrastructure needs of the community.

Personal or subjective opinion should never play a rule in this kind of controversial problems especially if it has to do with the economy, jobs, lives of employed workers, and yes, the environment. The benefits gained should not be held hostage just because the whim and caprice of a popular DENR Secretary is not accommodated.

To compromise is the way to go so it will not create a negative impact on all factors considered for a win-win situation could only be attained if a review of the ISO standards is done regularly by DENR so that anomalies can be corrected to help minimize the potential present and long term damage to the environment from mining activities.

 

Duterte orders total log ban

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

It is very encouraging and reassuring to know that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a Tri-Partite Convergence Committee that will formulate guidelines and other details of total log ban implementation in the country.

Knowing who Duterte is and his earnest concern for the country and the Filipino people it should be relieving to all that the government’s log ban policy will be forcefully and finally implemented for good.

I am saying this because it is not that the policy of a total log ban has not been mulled over and studied in the past by past administrations. The long and short of it is because past presidents and past Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials just did not have the backbone to implement it vigorously.

Proofs to this are the pieces I wrote in 2012 and 2013 which can be read at these links:  https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/illegal-loggers/ and https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/logging-ban/.

Reportedly, the committee will be composed of the DENR, Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

What adds to the favorable action of Duterte is the presence of two supportive and dependable Cabinet stalwarts, namely, DA Secretary Manny Piñol and DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.

In fact what prompted Duterte to issue the directive for the formation of the committee is the apprehension raised by Piñol, during the Climate Change Commission (CCC) En Banc and Advisory Board Meeting in Malacañang, about the massive floods in various river basins in Mindanao due to denuded mountains.

In the same venue Lopez told Duterte that despite the total log ban, several companies were given licenses to cut down trees under the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) and the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) contracts.

With Duterte’s order to stop all logging operations with no exemptions we can expect the greening of the mountains again and the mitigation of landslides and flash floods.

But this will take time for so much destruction has been done to the nation’s water sheds. In the meantime the agencies tasked to implement the order should continually be in the look- out for the unscrupulous loggers.