MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Gina Lopez admitted on Thursday, March 9, that some of the mines that passed her department's audit are in watersheds, but their operations did not "adversely affect" the functions of these watersheds.
This was revealed during Lopez's confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments (CA), when CA member and Davao Oriental Representative Joel Almario asked about the status of the 13 mines that passed the audit. (WATCH: LIVE: Gina Lopez faces Commission on Appointments)
"Since 13 of those who passed, some of them in watersheds, then you could tell [those who didn't pass] what best practices are being done by the 13 so they can adopt," Almario suggested.
Lopez told Almario that if concerned mining companies "propose something, we can look at it."
Senator Manny Pacquiao, chair of the CA committee on environment and natural resources, also asked Lopez about the mines that passed.
"Among those approved, may sa watershed pala, so ibig sabihin hindi talaga sa watershed [kung bakit pumasa] (some are in watersheds, so does this mean that watersheds are not really the issue), but because of their compliance?" Pacquiao asked.
Lopez answered, "No, [but] because the functions of the watershed were not adversely affected [by the mines.]"
On Wednesday, March 8, the CA quizzed Lopez about the definition of watersheds which she declared as "no-go zones" for mining.
Pacquiao on Thursday told the environment secretary to consider the mines that were ordered closed.
"Even in the Bible, about the creation of God, we have to take care of the earth [and] make sure to take care of the environment. Our life is connected with the environment," the senator said.
He later quoted Deuteronomy 8:7-9 as he talked about responsible mining.
During the break, Lopez clarified to reporters that her "stand on common good is non-negotiable."
"They can say what they want, and if they will say something which will contribute to the common good, then let's look at it. Whatever is for the common good, we will look at it, but the way I see it, if you kill our rivers, our streams, our water supply, sinong magdudusa diyan (who will suffer)? Ang mamamayang Pilipino (Filipinos). So we should never allow it," she explained.
She added: "I’m not gonna do anything just to get appointed, and I'm not gonna sacrifice my principles to get appointed. 'Yung stand ko (My stand) for the common good is non-negotiable because if I sacrifice that, something in me will die."
In February, Lopez ordered the closure and suspension of 28 mines, and the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements in watersheds all over the country, causing an uproar in the mining industry. – 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.