A group of priests and farmers held a prayer march in Quezon City on Thursday, February 2, in support of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez in her campaign to protect the environment.
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Batangas, led the rally as he pushed that Lopez deserves to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA), claiming that some groups want to dismiss her due to her firm stand against mining and other environmental issues.
Arguelles earlier wrote a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte asking him to keep Lopez as DENR chief.
“Sinusuportahan po namin si Gina Lopez bilang Secretary ng DENR sapagkat maraming gusto siyang paalisin. Hiling natin kay President Digong na huwag siyang alisin sapagkat makabayan po talaga si Secretary Gina. Iniisip niya ang kapakanan ng mga mahihirap,” said Arguelles.
The archbishop lauded the closure of 23 mining operations in the country, saying fighting for the environment is a duty to God.
“Sana ang mga naiwan dito sa DENR at ipagtanggol talaga (ang kalikasan). Sapagkat ito’y katungkulan natin hindi lamang sa bayan, hindi lamang sa mga papalit sa atin sa mundong ito, kundi sa Panginoong Diyos dahil haharap tayo sa kanya sa darating na panahon,” he said.
Lopez on Thursday ordered the closure of 23 mines, mainly nickel producers and mostly located in functional watersheds, discovered during the industry-wide audit conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) since July of 2016.
“My issue here is not about mining. My issue here is social justice. If there are businesses and foreigners that go and utilize the resources of that area for their benefit and the people of the island suffer, that’s social injustice,” Lopez said during a press conference held at the DENR.
The mining firms issued with closure orders are the following:
• BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc., all in Zambales province, due mainly to siltation of rivers, destruction of a functional watershed and illegal tree-cutting
• Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp., Emir Minerals Corp., and TechIron Mineral Resources Inc. in Homonhon mainly for siltation of coastal waters and destruction of functional watershed
• AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration, Kromico Inc., SinoSteel Philippines H.Y. Mining Corp., Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., Wellex Mining Corp., Libjo Mining Corp., Oriental Vision Mining Phils. Corp., in Dinagat Islands mainly for siltation of coastal waters
• ADNAMA Mining Resources Corp., Claver Mineral Development Corp., Platinum Group Metals Corp., CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corp., Marcventures Mining and Development Corp., and Hinatuan Mining Corp. in Surigao del Norte mainly for siltation of coastal waters and mining in functional watersheds
• Benguet Corporation in Itogon, Benguet and Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp. in Bulacan
On January 10, a case was filed against Lopez before the Ombudsman accusing her of ignoring reports that the agency’s air quality monitoring machines are defective. Lopez meanwhile said that the DENR is investigating the claim.