GIVEN the composition of the present Commission on Appointments (CA) and the heavy war chest available to those who oppose her appointment as Secretary of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Gina Lopez does not stand a Chinaman’s chance. Her unrestrained asides to CA vice chair Rep. Ronaldo Zamora whose family owns Nickel Asia Corp., one of the biggest mining firms in the country, during the CA hearing does not help her cause any bit. When Zamora asserted that he has no direct participation in the operation of the Hinatuan Mining Corp., another clan property, and that his brother runs it, Lopez admonished the congressman to tell his sibling about the “killing of the mountain.” Neither will her allegation that a big lobby group offered CA members bribe money in exchange for her rejection.
But these statements define the character, courage, and passion of DENR Secretary nominee Lopez. Her frankness and fearless demeanor, bordering on the abrasive, means that she has the balls to go against the powers that be to effect meaningful change for the benefit of the Filipino people. It affirms her desire to disturb the status quo and has no hidden personal agenda in the way she intends to run her department if she is confirmed. Her financial standing as heir to the Lopez business empire means that she cannot be corrupted by money. Having enough dough to resist any payoff and sincere dedication to a cause greater than one’s self is a combination that makes for a revolution. And this scares the hell out of mining industry players.
This is why the mineral extracting community is hell-bent on seeing to it that Lopez does not become regular DENR Secretary. They realize that if she does and she continues to implement DENR guidelines and protocols strictly, their bottom line will be affected. Sure, they can appeal to the Office of the President any ruling adverse to their interest but with the lucidly pronounced crusade of President Duterte to end irresponsible mining, they foresee no reprieve and expect serious dents in their profit margin.
Aerial photographic images showing contaminated coastlines and abandoned pits presented by Lopez in the CA deliberation are grim reminders of the depth at which the quarrying of the country’s soil had been subjected to and its disastrous effect to the environment. Notwithstanding these proofs, mining organizations deny the damage wrought by their operation, question Lopez’s competence and cite technical legalese to undermine site audit results. They have only one thing in mind. They are intent on preserving the present state and practices of their business to continue to realize massive financial windfall without regard for the environment.
As her nomination is deemed bypassed, it is now up to President Duterte to reappoint Lopez. If he does so, this will send a message to all and sundry of the seriousness of the president’s intent to fulfill his campaign promise to reform the mining sector. And patriotic Filipinos must boisterously show their support for the president’s fight to end irresponsible mineral harvesting.
It is however lamentable that opposition to the approval of Lopez as DENR Secretary is more intense than support for her. The antis are well funded and organized that they are more visible in public forums such as the CA hearing while her supporters lack a strong spearhead from the civic population. This apathy among environment advocates and the public at-large is the fodder that feeds the CA to bypass Lopez. There is no public pressure to affirm her endorsement. Social media is cold in advancing her nomination to a permanent term.
The Filipino people must mobilize and put the CA to task for abandoning the interest of the country and dooming the preservation of its patrimony. The opportunity to begin the conservation of the beauty of the Philippines by reforming the mining trade is now. Every citizen who loves their motherland should register their backing for Lopez as DENR Secretary.