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.



Lopez on renewable fuels and the Marcoses


DENR Secretary Gina Lopez

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez

Lopez is of course the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez, a known environmentalist and a staunch critic of the use of fossil fuels like coal as energy sources for the country’s power plants.

The secretary, however, advocates strongly the use of renewable fuels or the alternative source of energy which is produced or recovered without the undesirable consequences inherent in fossil fuels with high carbon dioxide emissions (greenhouse gas).

We all know that the use of the fossil fuels like coal is being blamed the main culprit for global warming which in turn has produced unpredictable and destructive weather conditions all over the world today.

In effect what Lopez is actually advocating is something that is environmentally friendly or green, a buzzword popularly used today when referring to what the eco-system needs.

Basically going green means to live life, as an individual or a member of the world community, in a way that is friendly to the natural environment and is sustainable for the earth.

I don’t think that is an issue to be debated as people would really like to live in a world free of natural disturbances.

But is that realistic?

Do we have the resources to be producing an alternative source of energy or would it just be better that we continue using coal for energy production while giving employment to the people.

I could not agree more with Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi when he said “we cannot just discount coal” in reaction to Lopez’s abhorrence of fossil fuel.

The country is not ready yet to embark on this costly shift anytime soon, but it does not mean that we will not be preparing the country for that eventuality if only to be saved from a devastating natural catastrophe brought about by climate change as a result of global warming.

Unlike the US and China and the other industrialized countries, the footprints we left on global warming is too small to be described as the ones causing havoc to the environment. But then again it is not an excuse for not considering the shift to green energy

What makes Lopez’s appointment to a Cabinet position in the Duterte administration interesting is her being simply a scion of the moneyed Lopezes whose business empire, run then by the secretary’s grandfather and patriarch, Eugenio Lopez Sr., of which the giant ABS-CBN is one, was taken away by Marcos and his cronies and her father incarcerated for five years.

Ironically, the Marcoses are good friends of Duterte and the DENR secretary could not just stomach them, much less accept them, and so it remains to be seen whether Lopez will hold on to her job if and when Duterte will open a position for Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr in his administration.

“They put my dad in jail for five years, they took our businesses away. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with the Marcoses. I love my dad. That’s how I feel,” she said.

Talking about a balancing act that Duterte will be making in the near future.


Palawan underground river made more unique with rare mineral discovery


The Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) in Palawan has just made it to the 7 New Wonders of Nature and those who felt that the PPUR should be included never went wrong for it is not only a wonder in itself, but the discovery of rare mineral makes it even more unique!

The serrabrancaite deposits in the underground river were confirmed by famous crystallographer Dr. Paolo Forti, who joined the Italian La Venta Geographical Association scientific expedition to PPUR.

Until its discovery, serrabrancaite could only be found in Alto Serra Branca near Pedra Lavrada, Paraiba, Brazil.

Serrabrancaite is actually another name for manganese phosphate. The mineral occurs as dark brown to dark greenish black isometric crystals up to 0.3 mm size. The crystals have an adamantine luster and are translucent. Chemical analysis of the crystals has yielded a composition of manganese, phosphate and water, thus, the empirical formula given is MnPO4.H2O.

But, where does the mineral come from or what was it originally?

According to experts, serrabrancaite comes from the mineralization or fossilization of “guano” – more known as the droppings of bats and seabirds that make their homes inside caves.

Aside from serranbrancaite, scientists also discovered new cave minerals robersite and janggunite. Other common but notable minerals found in the cave are calcite, gypsum, apatite, variscite, strengite, manganite, rodocrosite, and pirolusite.

“Cave experts themselves are amazed because only few caves in the world host more than three to four minerals, yet in the PPUR alone, they have unearthed at least 11, of which three are new cave minerals,” Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje  said.

Relative to this findings, the DENR posted a statement on their website saying that a “20 million year-old fossilized remains of a sea cow or sirenia have also been found embedded in perfect condition in the cave’s walls.”

Other natural wonders in the top 7 include South Korea’s Jeju Island, Indonesia’s Komodo Island, the Amazon rainforest, Vietnam’s Halong Bay, Argentina’s Iguazu Falls, and South Africa’s Table Mountain.