Lopez says 'no cop out' in fight vs destructive mining

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 09 2017 01:15 PM | Updated as of Feb 09 2017 02:03 PM

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez poses for a picture during an interview with Reuters at his office in Manila. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

MANILA – (UPDATE) Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said Thursday she would “not cop out” in her fight against destructive mining, adding “only a miracle” will make her reconsider her decision to ban mineral extraction in watersheds.

Mining companies can appeal the closure or suspension order before President Rodrigo Duterte or the courts, Lopez said, adding her decision was based on laws and the Constitution.

“As long as I feel I can continue to serve the country. I won’t cop out,” Lopez said, when asked if she would quit her post if her decision is overruled.

Pressed by reporters, Lopez said she would be “quite sad” if Duterte reverses the closure and suspension orders.

“It will take a miracle to be able to convince me to allow mining in watersheds,” she said.

All individual reports for the affected mines will be out by Thursday, ahead of meeting of a meeting by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, an inter-agency oversight body.

NOT ON HOLD

Lopez refuted reports that the implementation of her decision was suspended by the Cabinet, following a meeting on Wednesday.

"That’s not what he said," Lopez said, referring to Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez.

A statement from the finance department said the Cabinet "expressed their full support behind President Duterte’s decision to observe due process before implementing a directive."

"What happened there, they wanna make sure I followed rule of law and I did. They were scared that, what I did was pretty something, 23 mines oh my God," Lopez said.

"I’m totally in my rights to close down the mines, if they don’t agree, they will appeal, when they appeal to the President, the mines still continues operations while it’s on appeal," she said.

FIGHT FOR THE POOR

Lopez said she was aware she was going against some politicians, whose past campaigns might have been funded by mining companies.

"I'm not saying any names, I know when you are funded by whoever, then you are indebted to that person, always in favor of the people who funded their campaign," she said.

But Lopez said she was pursuing "social justice" for the poor, who should benefit from mining's contribution to the economy.

"I don’t trust politics. Remember the first time, my name wasn’t given in? Nagulat ako (I was shocked)," Lopez said, referring to Congress' pending confirmation of her appointment as environment secretary.

Lopez said a new confirmation hearing was forthcoming. "I don’t know how long I’m gonna last here, my commission on appointments is coming if I’m in ABS I’m just a tree-hugger, now I’m DENR secretary so let me use my position now," she said.

"I said now that I’m still here, DENR Secretary, let me close the mines so I can at least show the public what it is," she said.