MANILA -- The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Tuesday approved the nomination of Ma. Antonia "Toni" Yulo-Loyzaga as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
During the hearing of the CA committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Yulo-Loyzaga was asked about various issues, including the controversial Kaliwa Dam project and the status of Masungi Georeserve as a protected area under the laws.
According to Yulo-Loyzaga, the government must undertake a “very accurate cost-benefit analysis” to determine the economic, social, environmental impact of the proposed Kaliwa Dam amid the “unfortunate” water supply issue in the country.
"The concerns of the indigenous communities should be discussed and ventilated quite well in terms of the decision-making process... Unfortunately for us, this issue of water supply for domestic use is one that continues to grow," she said.
Meanwhile, Yulo-Loyzaga urged legislators to craft a law to finally settle the supposed declaration of Masungi Georeserve as a protected area, saying the crafting of the Memorandum of Agreement of DENR with Masungi Georeserve Foundation taking full control in conservation efforts of the protected area in the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape had lapses.
“The crafting of the agreement was not able to appreciate the history of the claims and rights there. However, we wish to acknowledge the great work done by civil society groups especially the Masungi Foundation in terms of preserving and conversing the area in with they have in control at the moment,” she said.
Yulo-Loyzaga said she is tapping the DILG and DOJ to help resolve the competing claims and arrive at a “win-win situation for all.”
The official also said she is in favor of small-scale mining as well as responsible mining, given that its impact to the environment and communities are monitored by local government units.
“We are very much in favor of small-scale mining as a means to lift certain populations out of their condition, socio-economically. However, we need to strengthen our capacity to observe, to monitor, to evaluate the environmental impacts of these activities at the local level,” Yulo-Loyzaga said.
She said that the DENR will conduct a full review of the approval process for small-scale mining.
Among the plans of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s economic advisors is to strengthen the economy through mining activities.
“I am in favor of responsible mining and that responsible mining will be able to address specific exposure and vulnerabilities that are caused by the disturbance to the land and to offshore as well,” Loyzaga said.
Anti-mining group Alyansa Tigil Mina said they are skeptical on how small-scale mining will contribute in uplifting the lives of the people.
“It is also questionable if DENR has the personnel, the budget, and the expertise to consistently monitor and regulate small-scale mining across the country,” Jaybee Garganera of Alyansa Tigil Mina said.
Senator Cynthia Villar expressed concern on the alleged use of small-scale mining as front by big mining companies.
“You have to be careful na huwag gamitin ng mga illegal miners ‘yong mga small-scale miners para ma-circumvent nila ‘yong law kasi maraming local governments in Mindanao were telling me that when I’m visiting in Mindandao,” Villar said.
Prior to her appointment as the head of DENR, Yulo-Loyzaga served as chair of the International Advisory Board of the Manila Observatory where she advocated for more scientific research on climate and disaster resilience.
"I wish to assure this honorable body of my goal to serve under an ethical, science-informed, risk-based stewardship that will strive to be inclusive, consultative and transparent," she told the panel.
- with report from Lady Vicencio, ABS-CBN News