Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez on Thursday thanked the President for her reappointment, saying she was grateful for the opportunity to continue the DENR’s efforts to safeguard the environment and that she is still open to working with the mining industry despite its opposition to her reappointment.
“I knew of my signing two weeks before and yes, I am happy and determined to make a difference,” said Lopez, who was one of four cabinet secretaries who received ad interim appointments signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on March 16.
The reappointment of Lopez was greeted by disappointment by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP). COMP Legal and Policy Vice President Ronald Recidoro called Lopez’s reappointment “unfortunate” and said that COMP would continue to oppose the confirmation of the DENR chief.
Despite the mining industry’s opposition and its attacks against her in the media, Lopez said she is still willing to work with the industry, as long as mining operations conform with the law and do not threaten people’s lives.
“I will work with the mining industry to make peoples lives better. But as a matter of principle, I cannot sacrifice the well-being of our people at the altar of business profit,” explained Lopez.
“It’s morally wrong and it’s also against the law.”
Lopez said that while she understood the revenue-generating capacity of mining operations, under no circumstances would she compromise the safety of people and allow these to operate if the mines imperiled the welfare of surrounding communities.
“I will not give in when it is clear that the continued operations of the mines puts at risk people’s lives and our future,” Lopez stressed.
“The money they make simply cannot be more important than the well-being of our people.”