Lopez to CA: 'I'm not only about mining'

Secretary Gina Lopez assured members of the Commission on Appointments (CA) that her focus is not only on mining, but also on other areas of environmental protection and sustainable development that are within the mandate of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Lopez said her "controversial" decisions against erring mining companies are just among the many things she did in over half a year she has been in the DENR.

"I'm not only about mining," Lopez told CA members during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

Among her string of accomplishments are the closure of 50 illegal quarrying operations in Mt. Banahaw, dismantling of illegal structures in Laguna Lake, stoppage of ash spill in Bataan province, and intensified operations in so-called "illegal logging hotspots" in the country which resulted in the confiscation of massive quantities of illegally cut timber and filing of charges against illegal loggers.

Lopez said she also started her campaign to rid the DENR of corrupt officials and employees. "I have adopted a policy of one-strike out. I have zero tolerance for corruption."

The DENR chief also shared to CA members her plan to create ecological economic zones to help move local communities out of poverty in record time.

"I am confident that we can get our country out of poverty. I feel that genuine economic growth is genuine when it brings on social justice," Lopez said in her opening statement.

She added: "The stand in DENR to bring social justice is what I'm going to call area development -- looking at the area, looking at its potential and the magnificence, and maneuver it so that the resources benefit the people living there.

"It is to this end that I'm committing my full commitment to make this a reality."

Lopez said her extensive experience in building ecological economic sites will help her in providing sustainable livelihood to local communities without destroying the environment.

"I have had the experience of building models which worked and that is where I wanna go," Lopez said.

"These models have resulted in communities that we call ecological economic, educational zones and that is exactly I wanna go in DENR -- to build models and to build many models which show that we can do it and we can make it happen," she added.

Responding to questions from CA members, Lopez defended her decision to close down 23 mining operations due to serious environmental violations and to scrap 75 mineral production sharing agreements or MPSAs with mining companies in watershed areas.

"In watersheds, the water goes down to feed agriculture which benefits people living there. If you mine in a watershed, you invariably hit the water table that supports life in the area," Lopez pointed out.

She also said that it is within her mandate as DENR secretary to declare no mining in watershed areas. "I'm just following the law (Philippine Mining Act of 1995)," she pointed out.

Lopez also warned of repercussions of open pit mining, which mining companies could do if they are allowed to operate in watersheds.

"Open pit mining is illegal and makes soil acidic," Lopez said. #