BAGUIO CITY—Instead of helping make governance easier, Environment Secretary Regina Lopez have the administration a problem that has turned into a mess, President Rodrigo Duterte told the military establishment at the weekend.
“On Gina Lopez, we’re having a problem right now. [The situation] has messed up already,” Duterte told alumni of the Philippine Military Academy’s “Dimasupil” Class of ‘67, of which he is an honorary member, during a reception at the Baguio Country Club late Friday.
While there is a need to correct serious environmental problems, Duterte said he also needs to take into consideration the benefits of the mining industry.
“I will not judge her now [but] I will review [Lopez’s decision]. If it’s wrong, then I can’t do anything, if it’s destructive to the environment,” he said while admitting that Lopez’s decision to shut down 75 mining projects will hurt the economy.
“We get something like P70 billion a year out of the mining operations in the entire Philippines. We have to also to take into consideration,” he added.
Economic managers had earlier warned the possible impact of Lopez’s mining orders on unemployment and people’s incomes plus its negative effect on local government finances and the country’s GDP growth.
Duterte mentioned the matter a second time during the PMA homecoming in Fort del Pilar on Saturday and said that while extractive industries does threaten the environment, they can still exhaust administrative remedies.
“As a child of immigrants from Visayas to Mindanao. We hope for a better life in the so-called land of promise. But now it is threatened by climate change caused by manmade diseases like extractive industries,” he told the alumni of the country’s premiere military academy.
“[But], there’s such thing as exhaustion of administrative remedies,” he said. “If it’s destructive, I can’t do anything. But if… (it can pass,) then we correct it.”
Following an industry-wide crackdown on alleged violators of safety standards, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez made a decision for the suspension and closure of mining operations in the country, citing the alleged presence of these mining fiirms in ‘watersheds.’
Of the 41 mines audited, Lopez claimed only 13 passed while 23 were tagged for closure and five for suspension. She later admitted she did not follow the recommendation of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, which only recommended a maximum penalty of suspension of operations and fines.
Lopez then announced she will terminate 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs).
The 23 mining companies who were hit by Lopez’s closure order, meanwhile, slammed the DENR chief for committing grave abuse of discretion by shutting down their operations “without due process.”
But in a Cabinet meeting Feb. 7, Lopez was told that she needs to prove that due process was observed when she canceled the 75 mining contracts in her campaign against illegal mining.
At the same time, the inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council agreed on the creation of a multi-stakeholder review to advise the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and take another look at the “performance of existing mining operations in consultation with local government units.”