‘Don’t worry, you’re my Cabinet secretary, and naniniwala rin ako na hindi dapat i-mina ‘yung watersheds,’ Environment Secretary Gina Lopez recalls President Rodrigo Duterte as saying
MANILA, Philippines (Feb. 26, 2017) — Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Thursday, February 23, said President Rodrigo Duterte agrees with her that there should be no mining in the country’s watersheds.
“I met the President on Monday, there was a NEDA Board meeting, and I met the President just for a few minutes before he went into the room,” Lopez said during a press conference on Thursday.
“Sir I just want to assure you, talagang finollow ko ‘yung due process (I really followed due process), and sir, I really think that we shouldn’t mine our watersheds,” she said, repeating her words to the President.
“And he agreed with me. He said, ‘I agree with you.’ And he said, ‘Don’t worry, you’re my Cabinet secretary, and naniniwala rin ako na hindi dapat i-mina ‘yung watersheds (and I also believe that we should not mine the watersheds).'”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) this month ordered the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements in watersheds all over the country.
It also ordered the closure and suspension of 28 mining companies, following a months-long mining audit that started in July 2016.
Since the department’s announcements, President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly expressed his support for Lopez.
On February 2, after the announcement of the closures, he even said he never told Lopez to “slow down a little bit” in doing her work.
But Duterte admitted during a speech before the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1967 on Friday, February 17, that the losses from mining closures must also be taken into consideration.
“Eh wala akong magawa, if it’s destructive to the environment… But if – medyo, by then we correct it – we get something like 70 billion a year out of the mining operations in the entire Philippines. So iyan ang – we have to also to take into consideration and that’s really money,” the President had said.
(I can’t do anything, if it’s destructive to the environment… But if – probably, by then we correct it – we get something like 70 billion a year out of the mining operations in the entire Philippines. So that’s the – we have to also to take into consideration and that’s really money.)
Facing the CA
Lopez faced reporters on Thursday to address a report quoting her as saying lawmakers were offered P50 million ($995,885.13) to vote against her confirmation as environment secretary.
“I’m not accusing anyone of corruption. I have just heard that there is a P50 million, and there is no evidence at all. I said it casually, and it was not appropriate for Inquirer to put it down as if it was an official statement. It’s not fair to the [Commission on Appointments] at all, it feels like they’re rocking the boat to make gulo (to make a mess),” she explained.
Lopez is set to face the powerful Commission on Appointments on March 1.
Asked on Thursday about what she will say to the committee, she answered: “I’m going to tell [the CA that] ecological integrity and social justice are the critical elements for genuine inclusive economic growth.”
She said she will show the committee what she did when she was still with ABS-CBN and the private sector. She will also ask members of the CA to “give me a chance.”
“Wala akong duda, at siguradong-sigurado ako na puwedeng puwedeng makamtan [ang] isang bayan na wala nang mahirap…. Kung naniniwala kayo sa prinsipyo na ito, I am assuring you that I’ll make it happen. Siguradong-sigurado akong kaya kong gawin ‘to,” she said.
(I have no doubts, and I’m very, very sure that it’s very, very possible to achieve a country where no one is poor…. If you believe in this principle, I’m assuring you that I’ll make it happen. I’m very, very sure I can do it.)