Lopez firms up campaign vs illegal miners

By Rosemarie Señora

WHAT is more important, the lives and livelihood of the people or saving and preserving the environment?

That is the poser that needs to be answered especially by Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Gina Lopez as she pursues an all out drive to close mining firms especially those that are believed to be operating illegally throughout the country.

Initial studies indicated that the drive would affect the so called small scale miners majority of which are operating in 40 mineral-rich provinces in the country who are in danger of losing their livelihood following an order to stop small-scale mining operations.

About 60 percent of total gold production in the country and majority of the 300,000 to 400,000 small-scale miners operating outside Minahang Bayan will be affected because of the impending shutdown.

In a recent briefing, Lopez said all small-scale mining activities operating outside the Minahang Bayan were illegal in nature and that they should be stopped immediately.

A Minahang Bayan centralizes processing of minerals within a zone where the government will be able to monitor gold production by small-scale miners better.

It helps the government curb illegal mining and mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of indiscriminate mining operations in the country.

At present, there are only three existing Minahang Bayan in the country located in Masbate, Davao Oriental and Samar.

As much as we hate people who make a living out of damaging our environment, it cannot be denied that there will be families who will be affected with the efforts of the DENR’s new administration, headed by Sec. Gina Lopez, to drive out irresponsible mining in the country.

“We don’t need gold. Gold is not an essential thing for survival. What we need is clean air and clean water,” Lopez said.

The statement was in response to complaints by major mining firms that she was focusing more on large-scale mining and neglecting illegal small-scale operations.

Indeed, we all need clean air and clean water, but we cannot buy clean water or any other necessities without money.

This is the reason why re-establishing the livelihoods of affected small-scale miners are important for their families to ensure survival.

It is easy for the department to knock down mining operations but what will happen to the social justice that the Duterte administration is advocating? Surely, DENR will not let these families to starve after losing their living.

Task force against environmental offenders

To further send a message that the department is serious in its campaign, a task force was also created to go after environmental offenders and ensure strict implementation of laws and regulations on environmental protection.

The DENR, together with seven other agencies, namely the Departments of Interior and Local Government , National Defense, Transportation and Justice, along with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) , signed a memorandum of agreement to respond to verified reports of large-scale environmental violation referred by the task force.

The task force also agreed to enhance implementation of environmental laws “from deterrence, investigation, arrest, searches, prosecution and enforcement of judgments against illegal natural resources extraction and degradation, and for the protection of environmental quality.”

All parties shall ensure that communities facing environmental injustice, harassment or threats are protected from environmental law violators.

It will also assess law enforcement needs and operations, form multi-sectoral law enforcement teams as needed and conduct monthly action planning to address major environmental issues or deal with intractable violators.

It shall also provide “quick response to urgent calls” from the DENR secretary, keep operations and investigations approved by authorized officers confidential, and “set up checkpoints, camps or stations to be manned by multi-sectoral teams in flash points and transit points of illegally harvested or hunted natural resources.” (With reports from The Philippine Star)

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Tuesday, 21 January 2020
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