Lopez warned of fate that befell Yasay
Don’t be a Yasay.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday urged Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to give adequate responses to questions raised by members of the Commission on Appointments (CA), noting how he found her answers “wanting” when she first appeared before the body on Wednesday.
“[It’s] just a reminder that when you respond to questions raised by the members of the this commission, just bear in mind that you are here to convince us,” Lacson said at the resumption of the hearing on Thursday.
“I don’t want you to suffer the fate of Secretary Yasay,” he said, referring to the rejected appointment of designated Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.
As chair of the CA committee on foreign affairs, Lacson was the one who read out the bicameral body’s rejection of Yasay’s appointment at the plenary on Wednesday afternoon after it was found that the official had lied in saying he was never an American citizen.
The senator said he had almost moved for Lopez’s confirmation as early as Wednesday but noted how her responses to questions fell short of his expectations.
“Yesterday’s presentation was very impressive and convincing, so convincing that I had wanted to move to recommend her to the plenary. But the responses to the questions raised were wanting,” Lacson said.
“I’m saying this because I want to be as candid as the secretary. And I think the responses made were not enough to convince at least 13 (CA members) … . And I want to help you get past these confirmation hearings. That’s why I’m telling you this,” he said.
An appointee needs the vote of majority of the 24-member CA committee to get a recommendation to the plenary.
The committee chair, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, seconded Lacson, saying the body meant to assess Lopez’s fitness as an appointee to the environment portfolio.
Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato stressed that it was the job of CA members to probe nominees.
On Thursday, Lopez faced a long queue of opponents of her appointment, including representatives from the mining and education sectors, who cited her lack of technical and scientific knowledge, poor appreciation of the law and disregard for due process in enforcing her policies.
The opponents also slammed her “inability” to explain the mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) and several scientific terms, her manner of ordering the shutdown of mining operations and cancellation of exploration contracts, and her use of “arbitrary” standards in enforcing mining laws.
Lopez last month ordered the closure of 23 mines and canceled 75 MPSAs. She maintained that she followed the law, and that she was working for the common good and a sustainable way to use the country’s environmental endowments.
She said 82 percent of the mining industry’s net earnings, pegged at P35.5 billion, went to businessmen and not to communities facing environmental and health risks due to mining activities.
The Chamber of the Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said Lopez was unfit and unqualified to be the government’s lead regulator in natural resource development.
“Is she competent to lead the DENR? Does she have the experience, education, impartiality and temperament to accomplish the department’s objectives?’ To all these questions, we say ‘no, no and no!’” said Ronald Recidoro, the chamber’s vice president for legal and policy.
“Her extreme ideology and environmental fanaticism will only cause a mess that will hurt many and benefit no one,” he said.
Recidoro noted that Lopez “paints the mining industry as environmental rapists that just take what they want and leave nothing but suffering and destruction in their wake” without considering the role of government regulation.
He cited how mining companies have to go through a strict process before starting operations. “Mining companies can’t just go into any area and mine any which way they want,” Recidero told the CA.
Lopez rebuffed the COMP’s statement, saying: “There were violations … People have suffered.” She also asserted that “due process was followed every step of the way.”
“I’m looking here for an economy where everyone will benefit … . Use land in a way that assures our future. Why does it have to be gold and minerals and whatever? Why not look at biodiversity, ecotourism?” she said.
Christian Uytico, the first to present his opposition on behalf of a group of engineers and scholars, said Lopez “has inadequate technical and scientific knowledge to lead an agency” that dealt heavily with science.
Mining and geology students from the University of the Philippines along with tribal leaders from mining communities also opposed Lopez’s appointment.
Lopez later asserted that she was coming from “a space of compassion and love” in response to the opposition of tribal and communities leaders, who expressed concern that their children might face an uncertain future with the sudden closure of mines in their areas.
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