While saying that she admired the passion of Gina Lopez to protect the environment from destructive mining, a member of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) has called on the Environment Secretary to respect the law in enforcing her anti-mining policies.
Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez Sato on Sunday reminded presidential appointees, as alter-ego of President Rodrigo Duterte, to ensure that “they know the laws which they swore to uphold and enforce by heart.” This was after the CA committee on environment terminated its public hearing on Lopez’s appointment and deemed her bypassed.
“I admire her passion, but the law is the law. It may be harsh, it may be flawed, but that is the law. I am very much willing to hear from her what needs to be done and I will file a bill in the House of Representatives to make that happen,” Sato said in a statement.
“But it has to be done within the purview of the law. Any gaps in the law must be dealt with by amending the law or enactment of another law… The law is there for a reason and if she thinks the law should be amended, then by all means – but let Congress do it first,” she added.
The CA committee was expected to come up with a decision on Lopez’s ad interim appointment after an executive session on Tuesday. Lopez would not be able to attend the next hearing before Congress takes a break this week as she just left the country for a personal trip.
Lopez last month ordered the closure of 23 mines and canceled 75 mineral production sharing agreements for supposedly ruining watershed areas. She said all open-pit mining operations in the country were being done in a watershed.
But Sato said Lopez’s definition of watershed was not clearly stated in the law.
The Revised Forestry Code defines a watershed as a “land area drained by a stream or fixed body of water and its tributaries having a common outlet for surface runoff.” The DENR’s River Basin Control Office lists 142 “critical watersheds” in the country, which were defined as drainage area of a river system which supports existing and proposed hydro-electric power, irrigation works or domestic water facilities that need immediate protection or rehabilitation.
In a speech in Baguio City, President Duterte on Saturday reiterated his support to Lopez’s anti-mining stance, saying the country “can live without” billions in profit from the mining industry.
“I have to support Lopez and I cannot help you,” Duterte said. “Let me just add that all you contribute to the country is about 70 billion in taxes. We can live without it… I’ll get the 70 billion from somewhere else and preserve the environment.”
“If you have something against Gina Lopez, kindly rethink. Look at her passion… She’s not interested in their money and she is just doing it like what a Cabinet member should do,” he added./rga