BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Former Environment secretary Regina Lopez is “dismayed” that another big gold mine has been allowed to commence commercial operations in the province, former governor Ruth Padilla said Thursday in a forum organized by “pro-water” advocates at the Nueva Vizcaya State University here.
Padilla, the wife of current Gov. Carlos Padilla, announced during the open forum that Lopez called her at 11:42 a.m. on Thursday to express her alarm over the development.
“I am one with you in this fight, I will talk to [Environment] Secretary [Roy] Cimatu about this,” Padilla quoted Lopez as saying over their telephone conversation.
Lopez was referring to the approval of the British-owned Runruno Gold Molybdenum Project in Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya, which got the green light to operate after its papers were already signed by Regional Director Mario Ancheta of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau—an agency under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“[Runruno] declared their intent as early as September last year, but we needed to conduct our validation and had to wait for the results of the debugging [a test run]. I signed the permit on Monday,” Ancheta said in recent reports.
Lopez was President Rodrigo Duterte’s pick as environment secretary, but the powerful Commission on Appointments refused to confirm her appointment, forcing the President to appoint former general Roy Cimatu, the former Armed Forces Chief of Staff.
People from the academe and groups who are critical of large-scale mining in Nueva Vizcaya attended the forum.
Dr. Robin Broad, a professor at the American University in Washington, D.C., and John Cavanagh from the Institute of Policy Studies graced the forum to share the success story of an advocacy for clean water in El Salvador, where Asia-Pacific miner OceanaGold “• which runs the Didipio gold-copper mine here “• and the government fought a long legal battle in the International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
“We were happy El Salvador decided to impose a ban on metallic mining, the first country on Earth which have done such a move,” Broad said, praising Governor Padilla’s role in the lobby with the El Salvador government.
Padilla visited El Salvador few weeks before the ban on metallic mining was passed by that country’s Congress.