DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Digressing from his prepared speech on Tuesday while addressing the agriculture stakeholders in Malacañang, President Rodrigo Duterte said Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez had a good case in her hands, and should be given credit.
“You just cannot ignore the cries of Gina Lopez. I know that we get something like P70 billion in taxes from mining. But you should also allow Gina to present her case,” Duterte said.
Duterte urged Congress and its members sitting in the Commission on Appointments to at least give Lopez the benefit of the doubt.
“I would like to ask Congress to, there up at the Commission on Appointments. Tingnan niyo lang mabuti, and she would show you how devastated the environment is,” Duterte said.
Lopez had come under fire from the mining industry after she suspended 23 mining operations early February. Her confirmation as DENR secretary at the CA faces at least 19 oppositions. A few more groups are filing their oppositions within the week, Lopez said in a news report.
The lawmakers started the deliberation of Lopez’ appointment Wednesday. But the hearing was suspended due to lack of time in hearing out all the oppositors against her confirmation.
Duterte also shared how, during his travels in Mindanao, he would see the destruction caused by mining. Duterte described the view as akin to a “bottle cap turned upside down, but up there in the mountains.”
“If you pass by Mindanao sa arterial highways makikita mo yung devastations dun. ‘Yung parang tansan na binaligtad tapos nilagay sa taas ng buntod” (If you pass by Mindanao’s arterial highways, you can see the devastation. It’s like a bottle cap turned upside down put up there in the mountains), Duterte said.
“We have to, I think, come up with a code or a set of protocol of how to go about controlling mining,” Duterte said.
Duterte also shared how many of his former classmates who were now in the mining business had called him in the past to talk to Lopez but he declined, refusing to interfere in the rulings of his cabinet members through mere phone calls.
“For the life of me, I have never called my cabinet members for any reason at all. I confront them in the cabinet meetings, but never ‘yang tawag tawag (but never through just phone calls),” Duterte said.
The president however, clarified that he was personally not against mining per se, as it provided a significant source of livelihood to many Filipinos. Duterte said he hoped to strike a “happy compromise” with the environment and the mining industry. He, however, stressed that it is the public’s interest that must be protected first.
“I want my country to earn, so I’m not saying that I’ma against mining per se, that I’m against big mining. Far from it actually. I know we need the dollars, but somehow we have to look at the other way, in a different perspective,” Duterte said.
“Just the ordinary Filipino lang, ‘wag na yang foreign companies, wala ‘yang pakialam ‘yan kung saan tayo mapunta” (don’t bother with the foreign companies, they don’t care where we’ll end up), Duterte said. (davaotoday.com)