• Between Leni Robredo and Gina Lopez, I choose reason



    FATE must have tested me last Friday, April 21, for I found myself physically located in a piece of earth where two public personalities I am not fond of were scheduled to appear.

    On that day, I was at UP Los Baños, for the celebration of the 107th founding anniversary and alumni homecoming of my alma mater, the UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources (UPLB-CFNR) as one of its coral jubilarians, having obtained my BS Forestry degree in 1982.

    Environment Secretary Gina Lopez was supposed to be the guest speaker. As part of the celebration, a seminar on responsible mining was also held in the morning, giving particular emphasis on forestry’s contribution to the mining sector. I was expecting Ms Lopez to attend the seminar.

    On the other side of campus, I also learned that Vice President Leni Robredo was set to make an appearance as an invited speaker. I had no idea what she would talk about, but I was not expecting anything earth-shaking nor even remotely of value.

    The choice of which event I would attend was easy. I would rather listen to Gina Lopez perorate on her anti-mining stance, and engage the forestry profession from her declared bias. I was already preparing for the worst, where I was imagining her demeaning our science, and I standing up to remind her to behave. A grand confrontation was already playing in my mind. Unfortunately, or for those who did not want to be stressed, fortunately, Gina Lopez did not come, and instead sent Undersecretary Marlo Mendoza, who is also a faculty member on leave from the UPLB-CFNR, my former student, and a forester himself.

    Meanwhile, Leni Robredo appeared, and in her usual way, as per news reports, gave a speech that was full of logical holes and no -sequiturs. I would have loved engaging her in front of UPLB faculty and students, demanding from her some logic to back up her claim that the reason why she ran for Vice President was that she wanted to stop the Marcoses from making a political comeback. This is a bold-faced factual aberration. The Marcoses have already made their comeback. Prior to her election to the House of Representatives, and even while she was in it, she was not known to be an anti-Marcos crusader. Her being an alumna of UP Diliman does not automatically make her an anti-Marcos activist. Having worked for a public interest legal assistance group does not make her a human rights lawyer, more so if she did not even litigate a case.

    I chose to attend the UPLB-CFNR event not only because I was expected to be there, but also because I felt that between Gina Lopez and Leni Robredo, I can always take reason as a better justification. It would have been fun to tear apart Robredo’s lack of logic, but that would not have added anything to the supply of reason in a country in so much need of it.

    Gina Lopez represents a challenge to a more significant part of my being, as a graduate of a discipline whose scientific grounds she was assaulting. When she defined that “a watershed is a watershed is a watershed,” then I knew that the country will benefit more if I engage her. When she pushes for using mangrove species that usually thrive on brackish water where freshwater meets sea water to reforest the Liguasan, which is a freshwater marshland, then I know that to debunk her would be a service to science.

    Gina Lopez also tests the limits of my understanding of community-based forestry and of political security, which is borne by years of actual immersion in field conditions, as a political scientist, and not just a forester, when she boldly invited the communist New People’s Army to become partners in resource development and protection.

    She has to be reminded that it is not as easy as she makes it appear. It is not just a matter of asking the NPA to attend a team-building activity, where they would be treated to a session in yoga, and will be asked to sing “I believe I can fly.” There are serious political repercussions.

    Gina Lopez should have attended the seminar so that she would have been engaged by the papers that were presented that provided perspectives on responsible mining, which is the other side of the scarred earth and miserable lives she has glossily presented in social media and in her many public speeches. Forester Bibiano Ranes presented the success story of the nickel mining in Rio Tuba in Palawan, and gave visually-engaging pieces of evidence of how forestry can help in rehabilitating mined-out areas. Dr. Edwino Fernando, a botanist, gave a compelling presentation on how mining and biodiversity can be harmonized. The Mining and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources provided the policy and regulatory framework for how to make responsible mining work, if only we invest political will in it.

    It is a matter of pushing reason to win over passion to its side in protecting the environment, instead of passion silencing reason the way Gina Lopez does it to a point that it becomes popular and fashionable.


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    1. The issue is, social justice!
      Who could better do DENR aside from her?
      We had many DENR secs in the past, all well-educated about Forestry, Mining, Environment, etc.
      Where are we now?
      In fact, Gina is only running after irresponsible mining. I have seen the sites she visited through FB live. We have never seen this before. We are being fooled by too knowledgeable people but without hearts for the poor.
      Also, Gina is incorruptible! She is honest and brave and that’s what we need for now.
      She does not need to see Paris. She has seen that many times in her life.

      • Funny thing is, she suspended 75 mining contracts that have not even yet started mining itself. And contrary to the persona she is showing as a environmentalist, the fact that she has her own quarries exempt from the open pits that were suspended, this sounds like conflict of interest to me.

      • I completely agree with you, Joy, about Ms Gina Lopez and her actions. You know, I had been against the Lopez family and their business and politics for 30 or more years but Gina´s handling of DENR is different, it´s excellent.

    2. Should Gina Lopez succeed in destroying the Mining Industry in general, in my opinion it shall be the fault of knowledgeable scientists like yourself for not being able to bring her to her senses.

    3. my God! gina is not against mining industry per se, she is against irresponsible mining that most mining companies are practicing since time immemorial…. can you give a mined area that was devastated and rehabilitated back to nature… and its common sense not to mine water shed, you need not be a scientist to know what will be the effect of mining on water sheds….

      • She is anti-mining from the very start. She did not reason based on laws but on social justice which she make it herself. Mining companies already lost a lot within a span of 6 months, worse this mining companies will not be closed or suspended unless she can proved that they violated any laws – but if you will check most penalties are money, a very small one. If she and you & others really cares watershed then start at Ambiong & John Hay. Most mining companies have a program to plant, plant & plant trees.

    4. dating kriminal on

      The title of this article should have been — “Between Leni Robredo and Gina Lopez, I choose reason, and stayed away from confrontation.” This would have been more accurate title of your article, Mr. Contreras.

    5. Luisita Marikit on

      Our fashionable DENR Secretary missed the opportunity to discuss her advocacies in-front of the audience that truly understands what’s happening to our environment as well as the responsible mining. But there’s a common thing between VP Robredo and Sec Lopez, the two of them know how to appeal to people and act that they are the victim here.

    6. Sir! A. P. Contreras, This is one of the best decisions you have ever made to attend to the Environmentalists rather than kay pa-cute na ampaw, a nonsense critics of PDU30

    7. Leni Robredo is well known in Bicol for two projects laced with corruption. The total budget of these two projects was over 0.6 billion. She is well known in the whole country and internationally by OFWs for the massive election fraud which gave her the vice presidency in the middle of the night and for spreading black propaganda against the Philippines. She is also known for several press releases, several magazine cover pictures, failure to provide housing even for a single family of the typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda victims in the 5 months that she was housing czar, several costly and fruitless travels abroad, expensive shoes and bags, and motherhood statements. Logic and Leni are like oil and water. They do not mix.

      • LOL! True indeed, we cannot make a logical comparison between a professional and a pa-cute lamang. Between a lady from a woman!

    8. Ah, I would have paid to see Prof. Contreras engage Gina Lopez. She is so used to telling people how to think. Her audience, on the other hand, usually comprised of lay persons, are so taken by her ‘passion’ manifested by her wide-eyed expression, bouncing onstage and frequent exclamations of ‘My God!’ that they would believe her if she said the Earth was flat. (It wouldn’t surprise me if she was one of those Flat-Earthers…)
      It is fitting that yesterday saw the March For Science that urges the embrace of facts and data over sensationalism. Pinoys prefer to believe Gina because she is ‘bongga’ while science is ‘boring’. What we need is our version of Bill Nye or Neil Degrasse Tyson who know how to make science ‘bongga’ for the uninformed. (Prof. Contreras, perhaps?)

    9. Peste Mang-Inis on

      You are full of yourself, aren’t you. A professional ‘disdainer’. As a ‘journalist’ with a degree in Forestry, I equate your expertise with that of Rick Perry, a low GPA School of Animal Husbandry graduate appointed to head the US Department of Energy. Supremely disqualified.

      Any anti-Marcos stance should be celebrated. In this country devastated by the Marcos plunder, a weak Constitution, squabbling politicians, horrible poverty, and unbridled corruption, resistance is needed. Like it or not, Leni is one of only a few politicians resisting the trend to authoritarianism, populism, and eventual dictatorial rlue.. And, agree with her or not, Gina is taking a stand against the plunder of her homeland.

      • We should stop in joining the Marcos Aquino fray. They are using those issues for political mileage, specially the Aquinos. Let stop joining sides.Marcos era has stopped more than 30 yrs ago. Lets just think of what we can do for the country. and not enflaming the divisity caused by the Aquinos and Marcoses.God has forgiven those who sinned, why cant we?

    10. we are with you against Leni but the moment you attack Gina as well makes us stop and think. Do you have a better DENR secretary in mind aside from you? Don’t you see that she is the only secretary who has the will and determination to collide with the giant mining companies, she is not corrupt definitely. Who do have in mind?

      • How do you know that she is not corrupt? Isn’t going to Paris paid for by a private party in itself corruption especially when the party has a beneficial interest in a business it is promoting? Your “collide with the mining companies” spiel only indicates absence of understanding of corporate and boardroom culture just as it reflects ignorance of the science and nuances of mining engineering, a degree I have earned in Diliman. You mean to say that her only badge to head the department is her “collide with the mining companies” patch? There are a lot of names that can rightfully run the department, names that can easily be culled from the roster of the UP Alumni Association.

    11. For too long we have damaged the environment by pursuing mining without any thought. It is good to have Gina take an opposite stance of protecting the environment without any thought to the mining companies. Hopefully we will end up with responsible mining being done in our country.

      Never mind Robredo. She is a non entity with regards Reason. Ang dami mo palang alam. Ano na ang nagawa mo para sa Bayan more than Ms Lopez? I don’t think I found any strong resolve on your part to impart any of your seIf-proclaimed knowhow here, only your strong biases for the 2 women.

    13. (I hope this feedback will not be censored unlike my last response.)

      It is unfortunate you have failed to recognize that reason and passion are 2 states able to co-exist in our inner being. A flaw, as usual, in your (biased) reasoning.

      One does necessarily not preclude the other. Oftentimes they reinforce one another.

      It is obvious (if not deceitful) from your narrative, you have “equated” (unjustly labeled) one state with VP Leni and the other with Sec. Gina –implying one state is better than the other — and that they are mutually exclusive. They’re not.

      It is clear time and space were the limiting factors.

      Unless you intentionally avoided her and picked “reason” (over “passion”), as you claim, for fear of being confronted with the truth.

      By doing so (i.e. picking Sec. Gina’s event over the VP) you have, by your admission, failed an excellent chance to prove whatever your (baseless) claims against her are.

      With what you wrote you’re giving a silly excuse with a pretentious “academic” twist. It was your choice — not hers.

    14. Just for information: There are mangrove species that thrive in fresh water, it should be planted in watershed stream that has continuous flow that simulates wave. Gina is not against mining company, she is against irresponsible mining practice that these companies do since they have no plan once they abandoned mining. In USA and Canada responsible mining means having remediation and reclamation plan to bring back the area into nature. It is prohibited to mine in the watershed because it contaminate even the aquifers.

    15. “..her claim that the reason why she ran for Vice President was that she wanted to stop the Marcoses from making a political comeback.”

      Leni Robredo, instead of inspiring the youth, is trying to brainwash the kids because she knows that they can be easily impressed and swayed by what she says. Maniniwala at mauuto naman sila agad. Leni is using the old tricks of Liberal Party politicians.

    16. Andre Leonard on

      I’ll happen to take the well reasoned logic of both Leni and Gina over the lofty sentiments of a political professor any day. Both Leni and Gina have proven to be ‘boots on the ground’ advocates and ‘doers’ of good works.

      We have enough empty words and discourse in our leaders, political professors and government today. Those who can, will and have effected change will be the drivers of the nation. Protecting the environment and providing sensible corruption free government are admirable virtues.