EXPECT the extreme from Gina Lopez, green advocate, environment secretary, and thorn of big mining firms.
But her latest announcement, that of wishing to work with the New People's Army (NPA) to bring development projects to communities affected from large-scale mining operations in Agusan del Norte, is definitely eye-raising from both sides of the political spectrum.
Gina has already risked her post with her uncompromising crusade to penalize and regulate large-scale mining companies. Now she's taking another risk by wanting a collaboration with the guerrillas who are as strong in opposing mining and also logging activities in the countryside.
But what makes Lopez broach this idea is how she sees the NPAs beyond the military stereotyping this group as “extortionists,” “terrorists” and “anti-development.” “They just really want to get people out of poverty,” Lopez said.
The green crusader and Red fighters do meet on some points: that mining companies who plunder our natural resources must be stopped and must be held accountable to rehabilitate what is damaged.
Another point is that mining itself does not bring development. Lopez envisions development in terms of protecting the agriculture sector that will provide food on every table. This is the same vision the National Democratic Front, which represents the NPA in the peace talks, is proposing a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser).
Tapping the NPAs is also revealing of how government functionaries in the regions failed to perform its duties to protect communities affected by mining and other large-scale activities. It also shows how the so called “peace and development” projects by the armed forces are bringing the exact opposite to the communities. These are realities that have frustrate and pushed lumads and farmers farther to the margins.
Such frustration leaves Lopez to this option to find people or groups who share her out-of-the-system methods with the hope that this would bring effective change. Perhaps this is a test of how a “coalition government with the Left” espoused by President Duterte could look like.
Or as Lopez says it: “If we’re able to engineer a situation where they have inputs into the development plan, where their children and the people there can put food on the table and send their kids to school and everybody’s earning and the place is beautiful, why will you fight?”
Given the consequence of mining plunder to our environment, such extreme effects has come to this point where the Red and the Greens are on the same page now, fighting the same fight.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on April 22, 2017.
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