Environment Secretary Gina Lopez says the ongoing audit of mining operations in the country is not purely technical but has ‘social’ and ‘environmental’ dimensions as well
MANILA, Philippines (July 9, 2016) — A week after she ordered an audit on mining operations in the country, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Friday, July 8, announced the suspension of 4 mining companies for violating environmental standards.
In an interview with ANC, Lopez identified the companies as BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Incorporated, Eramen Minerals Incorporated, LNL Archipelago Minerals Incorporated, and Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation.
“We’re following the law. There was a Writ of Kalikasan issued against these 4 companies by no less than the Supreme Court. So we’re good. I’m just following the process,” Lopez said.
A Writ of Kalikasan protects the constitutional right to a healthy environment, as provided in Section 16, Article II of the Constitution, which states: “The state shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”
Referring to the 4 mining companies, she said, “They still need to get their act together.”
When asked, Lopez said the number of firms that may be suspended would depend on the department’s ongoing audit.
“The audit will not just be technical, it will also be social. It must also be environmental. So it’s not just going to be a technical audit. We’re going to have teams of agriculturists and fishery experts, to make sure that there is no adverse impact of mine operations in the surrounding areas. That’s what responsible mining is all about,” she said.
Lopez said the law on mining states that industry players should “follow the principle of sustainable development” for future generations of Filipinos “with the view of improving quality of life both now and in the future.”
She said that telltale signs of unlawful mining operations can be seen in their impact on the lives and livelihood of people in host communities.
“If their fish yield goes down, if the rivers and streams get affected – you can’t earn money by causing suffering. It’s not good; it’s not within the law….Their quality of life is more important, very, very important. It (mining operations) must operate within the principle of the common good,” Lopez added.
Her position is consistent with her marching orders to her department on her first day at its helm.
The appointment of Lopez, a staunch anti-mining advocate, had spooked mining investors when President Rodrigo Duterte named her as his incoming environment secretary a week before he took office.