Mining in watershed areas should not have been allowed.
This is what Environment Secretary Gina Lopez stressed when she closed 23 mines and cancelled 75 more which were yet to open because they were located in watershed areas.
However, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said that the government should honor its contracts with mining companies no matter what.
They said that it is ‘no longer a question of whether a handful of companies really violated environment laws’ but ‘whether we still uphold the sanctity of contracts.’
The contracts to mine in watershed areas were signed when the chiefs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were ignorant about the ecosystem or did not care about the ecology.
Lopez has yet to get the nod of the Commission on Appointments for her Cabinet post, but she is sure that she is qualified for the job and she can get it done.
She knows that we can get this country out of poverty.
She has the experience of doing it in small areas in record time and it can be done, she said in an interview.
‘If you will give me the chance to prove it, let me prove it. Let’s try it out. I’ve done it in small areas, and now, we have so much money in government, plus access to all other government agencies, we can do it,’ she added.
The Chamber of Mines has filed a formal opposition to Lopez’s confirmation, saying she is ‘not qualified for the job.’
They cited Lopez’s alleged bias against mining and her lack of experience in environmental resources management are the reasons for their opposition.
Lopez earlier ordered the suspension and closure of several mines as part of her crusade against mining operations that endanger watersheds. She also threatened to cancel dozens of mining permits.
Meanwhile, efforts are underway to create employment opportunities in some places, where several mines were shut down due to alleged environmental violations.
Lopez said rehabilitation funds worth P2 million from Benguet Corp. were used in August and September last year to train and create employment for 220 individuals, who in turn earned P1.2 million in revenues from the production of biochar or carbonized rice hull for use as soul fertilizer.