Lawmaker calls Gina Lopez ‘crazy’ for closing down mine firms
Surigao Del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. called Environment Secretary Gina Lopez “crazy” for cracking down on all mining firms despite the sector’s contribution to the economy.
During the appropriations committee hearing over the Department of Trade and Industry’s proposed P4.766-billion budget in 2017, Pichay asked Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez how much is the contribution of mining to products exported to China, one of the country’s major trading partners.
When Ramon Lopez said mining products constitute $600 million of the $6 billion export market to China, Pichay then took the opportunity to criticize a Cabinet secretary for wanting to close down all mining firms.
“If all mining companies will be closed, especially nickel mining companies, it will have no impact in our country?” Pichay asked the industry secretary.
“Meron po. Hindi po siguro pwedeng isarado lalo na po kung ‘yung policy ay nasa international standards (There will be. We probably cannot close them down just like that especially if they adhere to international standards),” Ramon Lopez said.
“It seems you are not united in the Cabinet. There’s one crazy secretary who wants all mining closed,” Pichay replied, eliciting laughter from the audience.
Pichay was apparently referring to Gina Lopez, who suspended Claver Mineral Development Corp. in Surigao Del Norte as the department is conducting a major audit on the mining firms, particularly on the effect of mining activities in the community.
Gina Lopez is leading a crackdown on mining firms as she claims there is no such thing as responsible mining.
According to the firm’s website, Pichay is president of the board of directors of Claver Mineral Development Corp, a nickel mining firm operating in Barangay Cagdianao at the municipality of Claver. Pichay reportedly acquired 60 percent of the mining firm.
In a text message to Inquirer.net, Lopez said she has talked to Pichay over the phone for one-and-a half hour. She declined to give details.
Ms. Lopez said that while Pichay’s firm was suspended in 2012 because of the use of the sea as tailings pond, the management now seeks to rehabilitate and transform the community into an eco-tourism zone.
Pichay had also committed to give 10 percent of the mining revenue for livelihood in the community, Ms. Lopez added.
“I had an hour and a half with Pichay today. After talking to him and my staff, it seems his mine may be one of the mines that can operate because there is nothing there, no community, only laterite and his objective is to progressively rehabilitate and transform it into an eco-tourism zone. He is also committing to ten percent of revenue to go for livelihood in the area,” Ms. Lopez said.
Ms. Lopez also said the congressman promised to work with DENR to resolve poverty in Surigao.
“He (Pichay) is actually not keen on mining—it’s just that area there can be used only for that. Just to clarify all the mines we suspended have adverse effects on the community. His was a 2012 suspension because the sea itself was used as a tailing pond!! That is inexcusable. But that has been fixed,” she said.
Pichay faces multiple charges of graft, malversation and violations of banking regulations for approving when he was Local Water Utilities Administration chairman the allegedly anomalous buyout of an insolvent bank owned by the business clan of the Gatchalians. IDL/rga
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