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.