“As long as mining operations comply with the law and do not damage the environment, then they should not feel threatened.”
This according to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) chief Gina Lopez, who on Friday reiterated that the DENR was not anti-mining, but is committed to strictly enforce environmental laws whether they pertain to mining, logging, or other activities that impact the environment.
Lopez, who visited two mining sites in the Visayas—Mariculum in Negros Oriental and Atlas in Cebu—said that there were in fact mining operations that remained open after the DENR conducted its mining audit.
“Atlas passed the audit and remains operational because it complied with the law; however, the same cannot be said for the other mines,” said Lopez.
The DENR had earlier ordered the closure of 23 mines and issued show cause orders to 75 mining agreements in February this year due to numerous violations of environmental laws.
Mining firms have protested the mine closures and have voiced opposition to the confirmation of Lopez, who said that the criticism leveled at her by mining industry would not deter her from cracking down on violators of the country’s mining laws.
“The President told me to enforce the law to the fullest and that’s what I’m doing. The problem is our mining companies want to get off lightly for their violations,” said Lopez.
“Allow me to use a rough analogy; let’s say there’s this violent guy who physically assaulted his neighbor—he broke the law. Rather than go to jail, he’s trying to make a deal, maybe pay his neighbor to settle the case. Maybe there are those who would accept the money, but not me—I would want the violent guy to go to prison because what he did is wrong and I would want to discourage other people from indulging in that kind of behavior,” Lopez explained.
“The situation is somewhat similar with our mining companies; some of them are used to paying fines for their violations when they deserve higher penalties under the law. Di pwede yan. Ang mali, mali. (That cannot be. What is wrong is wrong.) We need to send a message to the mining industry: shape up or ship out.”
Even President Rodrigo Duterter had earlier stressed that those in the mining industry need not fear Lopez if they followed environmental laws.
“It is not Gina imposing the rules and regulations. It is the law of the environment,” the President said earlier this month.
“One thing is very clear: Gina has passion for it and she wants compliance. So ayusin mo lang in accordance with the law.”