MICC review must be founded on social justice -- Lopez

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Tuesday strongly prodded members of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) to ensure that social justice will be highly considered in its review of the performance of all existing mines in the country, including the 26 mining operations ordered closed or suspended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"As long as there's commitment to social justice, I have no problem with that," Lopez said during the second meeting of the recently convened MICC in Pasig City.

The MICC, co-chaired by Lopez and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, is set to form five technical teams to look into the impacts of mining operations in terms of technical, legal, social, environmental and economic aspects.

Lopez said she wanted the members of each team mentored by experts who are committed to social justice.

"Before they go out I would like that they have an orientation from the far-excellent people from the fields that they are working in, who have a commitment to social justice so that they do whatever they do in the field of social justice," Lopez said.

She added: "If we are going there to make our people's lives better, only good things can come out of that. This will put MICC in a whole new arena."

During the first MICC meeting, it was agreed upon that the council's findings will be purely recommendatory and the focus of the review will be on the mining operations and not on the DENR decision to close down 22 mines and suspend four others due to serious environmental violations.

The MICC also decided to create a recruitment committee in charge of selecting the members of the technical teams.

Members of the technical teams must not be employed in any capacity, direct or indirect, by any operating mine in the country, and must not be a member of any anti-mining organization.

They should also have at least 10 years applied exploration, mining, milling or environmental and social development experience; and must have relevant professional license or in lieu, at least 20 years relevant experience.
Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said the final list of the review teams is expected to be finished next week.

For her part, DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna said the environment department is putting the mining industry forward so that "it will not cause social injustice."

"The MICC was created to look for policies that will make it better for the state and the Filipino people," Luna said.

Moreover, Luna said the review teams will conduct a "fact-finding and research type of activity" that will look at the mining operations and not at the results of the DENR review of mining operations.

Also present in the MICC meeting were Vice Governor Antonio Albano of Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP), and representatives from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the National Economic and Development Authority, Office of the Solicitor General and Office of the President. # 

DENR calls for proper management of wastewater, recognizes 14 'water champions'

To emphasize this year's World Water Day theme, "Water and Wastewater", a top official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday (March 22) underscored the need to focus on the so-called double effects of wastewater during the culminating event of the celebration of Philippine Water Week and World Water Day at the Quezon City Sports Club.

This, even as DENR Undersecretary for Staff Bureaus Demetrio Ignacio, Jr. led the recognition of 14 "water champions" comprised of individuals, organizations, government agencies and local government units (LGUs).

Speaking on behalf of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, who is on official leave, Ignacio said that while wastewater pollutes the environment and causes health problems, it can be beneficial if properly treated and reused.

"Treated wastewater helps clean our environment and re-using them conserves our water supply. They also offer economic advantages," Ignacio said.

Ignacio cited a recent study of the United Nations Environment Program on the economic valuation of wastewater which showed that approximately 330 cubic kilometers of municipal wastewater are generated globally.

He said: "This can irrigate and fertilize millions of hectares of agricultural land that can substantially increase food supply and generate bio-energy for millions of households."

According to Ignacio, the dichotomy of wastewater fits well into the primary objective of the DENR under the new administration, that is, to provide social justice for the people.

"Social justice means that in everything that we do, the communities should always benefit; and anything that we do should not result to the sufferings of our people."

"We should always strive to recycle our wastewater to benefit our communities and we should not allow untreated wastewater that will harm our people," he added.

In light of reports that the Philippines is among the countries most threatened by water scarcity, Ignacio also sought public support and cooperation on water conservation, "Let us not be waster. Let us be savers of water," he said.

Recognized for having gone above and beyond the call of duty to save the country’s most precious natural resource – water, this year's "water champions" are as follows:

Kampeon ng Lawa: Gil Abaquin (Ecoindex), Global Underwater Explorers, and TWG Knife Fish Infestation;

Huwarang Lingkod Tubig: San Jose del Monte Water District and Baliuag Water District in Bulacan province, and Dumaguete Water District in Negros Oriental province;

Kampeon ng Katubigan: Manila Water's Toka-Toka Advocacy Campaign;

Water-wise City Award: Makati City government;

Water Leadership Award: Engr. Arthur Batomalaque, Environmental Management Specialist, City Environment Management Office, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental; and Engr. Thelma Bautista, city environment and natural resources officer of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan;

Huwarang Alagad ng Ilog Pasig: MMDA's Flood Control and Sewerage Management Office;

Water Warrior Award: Albert Toldanes, president of Samahang Tubig Maynilad-Riverview; Engr. Reydennis Gilbas, president of Bicol Water District Association; and Mayor Edwin L. Olivarez and the Parañaque city government for their Urban Gardening Campaign.

Ignacio, together with National Water Resources Board (NWRB) Executive Director Sevillo David, Jr. and Maynilad CEO and President Ramoncito S. Fernandez, handed the awards to the honorees.

The WWD Awards was co-sponsored by the Laguna Lake Development Authority, Local Water Utilities Administration, DENR-National Capital Region, Environmental Management Bureau, and Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.

For his part, NWRB Executive Director David said that the water champions were an inspiration that "we can do so much more for the environment especially for our water resources".

"The awardees gave their best, year round, without expectation of any recognition," David said.

He also announced that the UN General Assembly on December 2016 has declared 2018 to 2028 as the Decade for Water. A global launch will be held next year. ### 

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