CONGRESSIONAL allies of President Rodrigo Duterte have thrown their support behind the decision of Environment Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez to shut down 23 mining operations.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte and House natural resources panel chairman Carlos Zarate hailed Lopez’s move, noting that it would be beneficial for residents near mining areas in the long run.
“We need to take care of our environment, and Secretary Lopez did the right thing. Yes, there are jobs which will be affected by the closure, but it is also worth noting that most of these mining companies are in Caraga region which is one of our poorest regions,” Alvarez said in a radio interview.
“Yes, there are jobs [provided by mining companies]but the cost of that is environment degradation which would also leave our people suffering when natural calamity strikes,” Alvarez added.
Zarate, for his part, called for the immediate enforcement of Lopez’s order, the permanent closure of companies that caused massive damage to the environment and livelihood of the people, and the constant monitoring of five suspended mines.
“All the concerned companies should now also be ordered to pay for the damage and compensation for those affected by their destructive operations and for the rehabilitation of the areas,” Zarate said in a statement.
Zarate also called for the junking of the Mining Act of 1995 that allowed foreign ownership of mining operations.
His sentiments were echoed by Rep. Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis party-list.
“The suspension should be executed immediately to rid of any maneuvering firms could engage in…we urge the department to impose damage payments on these firms to compensate for the destruction of the environment and impact on affected sectors,” Casilao said.
“We urge the Duterte government to put more value in protecting the environment, rights of indigenous people to ancestral land and self-determination, and farmers’ rights to land, than in foreign-dominated mining and logging operations, and immediately order a stop to their destruction and violations,” Casilao added.