"If nothing is done now to preserve the country's environment and natural resources, it will not be done ever."
These were the words of Secretary Gina Lopez as she made her final push to convince members of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) that she deserves to be confirmed as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
On Tuesday, the CA finally decided to terminate the public hearings on Lopez's appointment after conducting a total of three (3) hearings. The bicameral body is set to deliberate and decide her fate on Wednesday.
During her final confirmation hearing, Lopez defended anew her decisions against erring mining companies, as well as the ongoing reorganization at the DENR.
"I'm taking the opportunity to do the right thing because that opportunity may not come again," Lopez told CA members.
Lopez had earlier ordered the closure of 22 mines and suspension of 4 others due to serious environmental violations. She also announced her plan to scrap 75 mineral production sharing agreements or MPSAs with mining companies operating within or near watershed areas.
The environment chief likewise came out with an administrative order requiring suspended mining companies to set aside P2 million per hectare of "disturbed land" for farmers before they are allowed to transport their stockpiles.
Just recently, Lopez imposed a ban on open-pit mining. The ban covers "open-pit method of mining for copper, gold, silver and complex ores."
Lopez assured CA members that whatever she does at the DENR are "within the law and government processes."
She maintained it was part of her duty and obligation as DENR secretary to make sure that the "people are not adversely affected by mining."
As for the ongoing reorganization at the DENR, Lopez said she was merely "reformulating" the agency "so things happen on the ground."
Faced with mammoth task at the DENR, Lopez said it is important for her to gather "developmental people" who will help her fulfill the mandate of protecting the environment and ensuring the availability of natural resources to future generations.
"We have so much money in the DENR, but it is not well used," Lopez pointed out.
She added: "We don't have developmental people to keep things happen on the ground. The key is implementation through partnership with well-meaning people." #