"When there's an elephant in the room, you can't pretend it isn't there and just discuss the ants."

-- Ellen Wittinger

BUSINESSMAN Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP), chairman of Philex Mining Co., reacting to the appointment of Gina Lopez as environment & natural resources (DENR) secretary, said he respects incoming president Rodrigo Duterte's choice but, he noted, Lopez is "the elephant in the room."

Lopez, ABS-CBN's Lingkod Kapamilya founder, has been vocal and assertive in pursuing her anti-mining advocacy which is, she said, "not to build an economy based on suffering."

DENR is tasked to protect and regulate, among others, use of mining resources. Mining companies, seek to maximize profits, often at a stiff cost to the country's human and natural assets. DENR must balance business goals against concerns about environment and the workers.

Lopez can't be an impartial referee if she's passionate and firm in her views against mining. It's an "obvious truth or risk," a "problem" that no one wants to touch.

Not even the mining industry which "welcomed" the appointment, or MVP who apologized for mentioning Gina and the elephant in a metaphorical idiom. In 2012, at a forum on mining issues, Lopez and MVP argued heatedly, a news report said.

Obviously, no one from the industry dared to question wisdom or propriety in choosing Lopez. Apparently not to anger Duterte who in separate instances had scolded and cursed at the church, media police -- and legislators whom he told not to block him or they'd have a fight in their hands. Not quite the atmosphere one needs for a debate on a crucial topic.

Big as life

In the 1935 play and 1960 film "Jumbo," comedian Jimmy Durante, leading an elephant, was accosted by a cop: "What's that elephant?" Durante retorted: "What elephant?"

There's an elephant, big as life, but they'd rather talk about the ants.