By Jun Ledesma

I believe Gina can still fly

Gina Lopez bowed out of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in a manner and classic idiosyncrasy this time warbling the 1996 hit by R. Kelly - "I believe I can fly". The import of the song can simply mean she can do what she had thought she cannot and that she can do anything to achieve her goals if she wishes to.

For now, Gina is out but she created enough stir her exit will create some noise but will ultimately end in a whimper. By herself Gina can fly. She wants the President to take over the helm of DENR. She has bases in saying that, among these Duterte has the will in resolutely seeing through what he wants done.

But the President is overloaded. I am sure that with over 100-million Filipinos there are 10 with the proper educational background and experience who can handle the job from which the president can have his pick. But Duterte should avoid the bait now being hawked around that the most deserving is one who belongs to his political party PDP. He might end up with one who is a square peg in a round hole. Enough with Mike Sueno.

Gina Lopez had the best of intentions but she was like a raging bull in a china shop. Itís a complicated world up there. You have interest groups, environment watchdogs, local and foreign investors, gold and nickel smugglers who in the previous administrations connived with influential men and women in the higher echelon of power and allowed the rape of our mineral resources.

When Gina suspended nearly all mines and banned open pit mining operations all together she was up to an avalanche of protests. Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez was alarmed the action will earn a magma of cases from foreign investors. Critics was quick to denigrate Sonny saying he is into mining. Sonny's investment manager may have bought stocks in mining issues but that does not make him an owner. He had direct investments or involvement that I know of before but that is a thing of the past. In short the Secretary has broad knowledge about mining he knows what the government will face when the mines are locked up. It is not his fault that the previous administration, with then DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, went on a super roadshow in 2011 in Singapore to announce that the country is opened to mining investors. He was talking of responsible mining, end to "sins of the past" and guaranteed a government under Pres. Benigno Aquino III which he described as "straight as an arrow".

The investors came but we never realized that the rest of Paje's statement was a new episode of Alibaba's fable.

The loose implementation of mining laws and regulations during the Aquino regime resulted in the degradation of environment surrounding the mine sites. Like the breakdown of law and order and the institutionalization of corruption in the government the unimpeded and unregulated abuse of mining laws became the new norm.

These are what Ms. Gina Lopez inherited. When she suspended and cancelled mining operations these created a furor. The mine owners deserved the retribution but what about the domestic and foreign investors who were caught in the bind?

Gina was correct in suspending the mines operations but would have demanded for a program of rectification which should be covered by a performance bond and a PERT/CPM to monitor the progress of the program of rehabilitation or correction. What she asked was merely for the mining operators to pay PHP2-million per hectare. Period.

That she will ban open pit mine all added up to the confusion and here the Commission on Appointments may have put on the alarm and breaks. Lime stones used in the manufacture of cement and sand and gravel used in infrastructures are all mined by open pit method. I can just imagine the pressure on the members of the CA when Gina announced this. Open pit mining is allowed by law but Gina says it is her prerogative to impose the ban. She pushed herself and the members of the commission on appointment in the proverbial Catch 22.

The new secretary can revisit the good intentions of Gina by taking up from where she left when she suspended mining operations of those who violated the laws and caused irreparable damage to the environment. In the interim, they should submit plans and program of implementation to put things in order and back this up with performance bond which will be up to the end of the mining operations and rehabilitation.

Gina, meantime, can continue her advocacies. If I were the President I will appoint her Czarina for the rehabilitation of Laguna Lake and Pasig river. I believe she can fly in this one where others fail under the onus of graft and corruption.

(Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan)


About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.