This was the statement of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as he reiterated its support to Environment Secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez even if the government risks of losing profit from the mining industries.
“We can live without it. I would rather follow Gina. Maghanap-buhay na lang tayo ng iba, get the P70 billion somewhere else and preserve the environment. ‘Wag na tayong magbolahan, [Let us not fool each other]” Duterte said in a speech during the launching of the Cordillera hub of People’s Television Network on Saturday.
Duterte said the Philippines could live without mining even if the mining industries contribute to government funds about P70 billion a year in taxes.
“Let me just add that all you contribute to the country is about 70 billion in taxes. We can live without it,” he said.
He said that by riding a low-flying aircraft, he personally saw the magnitude of destruction brought about by mining operations in Surigao.
“The problem is nakita ko kalbo until now, malayo na iyang binutas ninyo diyan because it’s an open pit [ The problem is the mountains until now are bare. The hole is very deep because it’s an open pit.] Pagka-ganoon [If that’s the case], I have to support Lopez and I cannot help you,” he said.
Duterte issued the statements days after the DENR chief presented her case before the Commission on Appointments on Thursday. But the CA ended its hearing apparently without a concrete decision as to Lopez’s nomination.
“If you have something against Gina Lopez, kindly rethink. Look at her passion,” Duterte said. “She’s not interested in their money and she is just doing it like what a Cabinet member should do.”
On Sunday, Lopez lauded the President for “deeply caring about the country,” as she expressed gratitude for standing by with her principle against irresponsible mining.
“In the plane already… want to say one more thing.. that i am deeply and profoundly touched by the support of the president. This is what i know of the man. He is the real thing. Its not plastic at all. He deeeeeply cares for our people… and he deeply cares for the country,” Lopez said in a Facebook post.
“He is humble, unassuming and he CARES. I continue to be touched by his courage at supporting my controversial decisions.. my heart continues to resonate with his zero tolerance for corruption – and his stance at getting things done and done quickly…. he is the real thing,” she continued.
Meanwhile, Gabriela recognized the embattled DENR chief with the recognition as “Woman of Courage” for fighting the general welfare of women, indigenous peoples and the Filipino nation.
“We bestow upon Secretary Lopez this simple yet deeply meaningful acclamation for her principled pursuit of defending the remaining natural resources, putting first the welfare of succeeding generations before the short-term gains of wealthy business monopolies,” Gabriela Secretary General Joms Salvador said in a statement.
Salvador conferred the recognition to Lopez in a simple ceremony as part of the group’s observance of Women’s Month.
Salvador also cited Lopez’s defense of the rights of indigenous peoples and their prior right to decide for their self-determination for future and livelihood. (davaotoday.com)DAVAO CITY, Philippines—I would rather follow Gina Lopez.