By: Nelson S. Badilla
THE pro-environment praises Regina Lopez for her decisive action against mining firms that kills the environment and natural resources.
Lopez shut down and suspended several dozens of mining operations including those who asserted that they were granted by an international organization an certification of having complied with international standard of business operation.
But, Lopez asserted that she closed down and suspended the operations of a big number of mining companies because they are killing the environment and the natural resources based on the review of experts on mining.
Lopez decision was the first time in history.
It was also the first time that the Philippine government has a secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) who really cares and who is strongly concerned with the country’s environment and natural resources.
Lopez’s decision has the full support from President Rodrigo Duterte himself.
On his first state of the nation address (SONA) in July last year, Duterte assailed the mining firms that destroys the environment and the natural resources of the country.
So, Lopez got an idea of what she would do at the DENR as Duterte appeared to have made marching orders on her.
When she took offensive on the mining firms, the mining companies expressed their strong opposition.
The mining companies brought their stand to the media.
They attacked Lopez. They made it appear that Lopez is an incompetent, thus, has no right to head the DENR.
What is disappointing is that a big number of congressmen support the mining firms.
Representatives Prospero Pichay Jr., Ronaldo Zamora, etc. cried foul on Lopez’s decision.
For example, Pichay accused Lopez being “crazy.”
It turned out that Pichay’s mining firm Claver Mineral Development Corporation in Surigao del Sur was one of those closed down by Lopez.
Pichay is the president of the Board of Directors of Claver. He owns 60% stake in the said company.
Another mining firm linked to the family of San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora is the Nickel Asia Mining Corporation that operates in Surigao del Norte, Agusan, and Palawan.
Nickel Asia headed by Manny Zamora has been in mining business since late 1970s.
Rep. Zamora, vice-chairman of the powerful Commission on Appointment (CA), appreciated the passion of Lopez in protecting the environment and natural resources.
But, Zamora made it clear the she will question Lopez competence to lead DENR.
The issue of competence was the same point that Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) Chairman Artemio Disini hurled against Lopez.
Disini argued that Lopez has no right to be confirmed as DENR secretary since he does not know anything about mining.
But Lopez hired experts on mining issue in order to help her in cleaning up the country from mining that kills the country’s environment and natural resources.
Disini said the mining industry has a significant contribution to the country’s economy.
This was also the argument of Pichay.
A study of Ibon Foundation revealed that the mining industry’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product was less than 0.10 percent since 1995 – when the Comprehensive Mining Act took effect.
Its produced more than 200,000 jobs each year.
A separate Ibon Foundation study showed that “mineral extraction and production often incur significant social and environmental costs which in fact fall disproportionately on the poor.”
For example, Ibon said that in 2009, the mining industry in the country said “had the highest poverty incidence among industry groups at 48.71%. This was the highest poverty incidence since 1988, even surpassing the agriculture sector, which has historically topped poverty incidence across industries.”
Some of the biggest mining operations in the country are the Taganito Mining Corp in Surigao, Nickel Asia in Eastern Samar, Sagittarius Mines Incorporated in South Cotabato, Filminera Resources Corp. in Masbate, and TVI Pacific Inc. in Zamboanga del Sur.
The Philippine government’s official data on poverty incidence for 2015 revealed that regions where mining operations are prevalent showed that they are the poorest in the country.
Poverty incidence among individuals in Caraga (Region XIII) is the second highest in the country at 39.1 percent.
The Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) posted the third highest poverty incidence at 38.7% followed by Soccsksargen (Region XII) at 37.3%, Bicol (Region V) at 36.0% and Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX) at 33.9 percent.
The data are sound proof that the mining industry failed to attain its objective of helping address the massive poverty incidence in the country.
Then President Fidel V. Ramos strongly prodded the Congress to pass the proposed comprehensive mining law so that the mining industry would be revitalized in order to improve the Philippine economy and helped solve the massive poverty problem in the country.
Today is 2017. This is the best opportunity to find out if the mining industry is really helping the economy or not.
This is also the perfect time to ascertain if the mining industry is helping the poor Filipinos to improve their lives or it instead uplifting further the good economic life of the owners and managers of the mining companies, thus, the mining firms’ owners and managers and lawmakers who have business interest in mining industry have deliberately trained their guns on Regina Lopez so that this woman will not become DENR head until June 30,2022.