MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Wednesday, April 19, hit Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for "counteracting" her order requiring suspended mining companies to give P2 million for every hectare of farmland affected by their activities.
"For example, Zambales has 2.6 million tons [of stockpiles]…. All I'm asking, and I gave the order, that you can remove the stockpile. You can, because it's an environmental standard – just give P2 million for every hectare of farmland that you have disadvantaged out of the [rehabilitation] zone," Lopez told reporters in a chance interview on Wednesday.
She added: "What's happened is Bingbong MediaIdea has given a directive to all the mining companies counteracting my order. [It’s like] he's going against the very spirit of the Duterte administration, which is to help the poor. So I'm not really happy about this at all."
Lopez said it’s "social justice" for the companies to help farmers, especially since they will earn "hundreds of millions and billions of pesos" from the stockpiles.
She also noted that the mining companies' rehabilitation fund is only for areas affected by mining activities.
"Eh ano'ng mangyayari sa magsasaka na out of the rehab area, sino'ng mag-aalaga sa kanila (What will happen to the farmers who are out of the rehab area, who will take care of them)?" Lopez asked.
Medialdea, she said, went against her order and gave a stay of execution. She said the senior Palace official "counteracted each and every order."
"Now he's saying, ‘Go ahead and take [the stockpile]. You don't have to put money for the farmers.' Is that fair? I don't want to fight with anyone, but you're disadvantaging the farmers," she explained.
Lopez said her Environmental Management Bureau team on the ground can no longer stop mining companies from taking away their stockpile because of Medialdea's order.
"Now I cannot stop them. Like in Zambales, they were bringing the ore. [The] military [and] NBI [can] stop it. 'You're going against the law. Why are you taking away the stockpile when you haven't given money for the farmers?' I can stop them, but now that the Cabinet Secretary put that order, I cannot do anything," she added.
Lopez said she already reached out to Medialdea.
"I told him I want to meet him. I told him he can't do that, I don't know what he's thinking. We should use the rule and law which will help people….Why will you choose the law which will stop the mining company which is already earning so much money from giving money from the mining rehab? I don't want to fight the mining industry, I just want to say, 'Give money for the farmers.'"
The environment secretary, who was just recently reappointed by President Rodrigo Duterte, also lamented how the appeals of the mines affected by her closure and suspension orders "get stuck" in Medialdea's office.
"While it's on appeal, [the mines are] operational. It's only the President that can make a decision, but right now he can't even decide because the paper doesn't go to his office. So, you know, I'm not happy with this at all."
Lopez's controversial closure and suspension orders will be the starting point of the review of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council of all existing mining operations in the country. – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.