The country’s big mining lobby on Tuesday expressed alarm over the possible appointment of ABS-CBN Foundation chairperson Gina Lopez as chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) stressed the need for a DENR secretary who has a solid background in the intricacies of natural resources management, and someone who is able to balance economic growth and the needs of the people with that of environmental protection, the protection of indigenous communities, and society.
COMP is an organization of large mining corporations, processing firms, exploration companies, service and equipment establishments and other allied industries.
The group was reacting to reports that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has offered Lopez the key post in the incoming Cabinet after the two met at the Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City.
Duterte, who will assume office on June 30, has yet to appoint a new minister that will oversee the country’s mining sector.
Earlier reports said that the tough-talking executive wants to be DENR head himself for at
least a year with the help of former military officers, noting that the environment portfolio is a “sensitive” one.
Duterte has called on mining companies to “shape up” and stop destroying the environment, hinting that he would prefer ownership of mining assets to be left to local investors and may push to rewrite rules to limit environmental degradation in the sector.
For her part, Lopez, who is known for her environmental advocacies and a staunch critic of mining, said that had yet to think it over.
“I will seriously, seriously consider it,” said Lopez, adding that with or without a Cabinet post, she would be behind the Duterte administration.
Gina Lopez is the daughter of the late ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio Lopez Jr. She was sworn in by President Benigno Aquino 3rd as chairperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) in August 2010.
Meanwhile, the COMP said it remained optimistic that Duterte would listen to their appeal, reiterating the group’s continuing advocacy for responsible mining.
“The chamber is committed to work with the incoming administration to help address concerns in the industry so that we may promote true inclusive growth around the country,” said COMP spokesperson May Anne Cacdac.
Cacdac said that the mining industry could help bring hard investments to the countryside, and help achieve inclusive growth in line with Duterte’s 10-point economic agenda.
The Philippines has some of the largest untapped mineral resources in the world, but opposition from the Catholic Church, a strong anti-mining lobby led by environmental activists, insurgency, and corruption, have stalled many projects.