GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

The on-going war against illegal drugs and the summary killings placed the Duterte administration in a very precarious situation as it gains infamy. In less than a year in power, Duterte gathered more enemies from the “yellow” liberals to the conservative Catholics.

Moreover, Duterte’s flip-flopping on his stance in substantial reforms such as his campaign promises of ending contractualization, independent foreign policy, release of political detainees and peace talks,questions the sincerity of his administration.

Despite these setbacks, still there are good things with this administration. Though few, at least there are sincere and hardworking cabinet members, like the responsive Social Welfare Secretary, the pro-farmer Agrarian Reform Secretary and of course, the firm Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.

Few months ago, I had the chance to talk to Sec. Lopez on various issues during the State of Mindanao Environment (SOMEDay with Gina) sponsored by the Ateneo de Davao University along with various civil society organizations. We had the chance to discuss impacts of GMO and chemical farming, land grabbing by mining companies among other environmentally destructive activities. Also, the farmers and lumad in the communities that we are working with expressed their appreciation with Sec. Lopez, especially those Lumad that were displaced by mining and militarization. Sec. Lopez expressed her openness and commitment to stand for the environment. Lopez’s sincerity goes beyond rhetoric and media gimmicks.

My second meeting with Sec. Lopez was very unfortunate, it was during the wake of a good friend a lumad anti-mining leader Jimmy Saypan. Sec. Lopez’ simple gestures to convey condolences to the family and comrades of Jimmy was more than sincere, she nevertheless called for justice on the death of Jimmy.

The pro-environment stance of Sec. Lopez became popular, especially her unwavering commitment to stop the operations of big mining companies that plunder our natural resources. Beyond her fierce and firm statement is a strong political will that espouses Duterte’s campaign slogan of change. In the history of this country, seldom you can find an environment Secretary that stands for the common good than the interest of few greedy mining companies. Seldom you can find a Secretary who has deep-sense in caring for the environment more than profit, seldom you can find a Secretary that stands on social justice.

However, as the popular saying goes “you cannot please everybody”, the pro-people stance of Sec. Lopez were countered by the greedy mining companies, and eventually led her confirmation in limbo at the Committee on Appointments. Mining companies are hell-bent in dissuading the appointment of Sec. Lopez, they consistently offered mindless claims exaggerating the role of the mining industry in our economy.

Mind you, the contribution of the mining industry in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) only ranges from 0.6-0.7 percent since 2012. While agriculture contributes 10 percent of our GDP, therefore farming is far more significant in our economy and way less destructive than mining. Moreover, the resources being excavated by these mining companies does not serve the interest of the Filipino people, since we do not have industries, even the very basic industries.

The few cabinet members of the Duterte administration are the gems of this muddled government, they are the few who stands for the change that the Filipino people aspired in electing President Duterte– principled and uncompromising. If we are critical enough by now, it would be very elementary to answer why we should support Gina?

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