Gina Lopez: I love the NPA
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez revealed on Thursday plans to work with the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in developing Agusan del Sur into a model of her agency’s “ecological, economic, educational” thrust.
Speaking at the CEO Forum at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay City, Lopez said she was looking at Agusan del Sur, a province that has heavily benefited from mining but where the rebels operate, to be one of the first areas transformed into an “E3” zone.
The department has earmarked P6 billion for the development of E3 zones nationwide.
She said she was optimistic that she “can remove poverty” in the province by tapping into a P50-million social development and management program (SDMP) fund set aside by mining firms in their sites of operations.
“I already asked the President if I can work with the NPA. In fact, I met them two days ago. I like the NPA. The guy we met was an ex-seminarian … We can’t market the place and do anything if there’s fighting and, at the end of the day, what do they want? They just want a better life,” Lopez said.
She alleged that nobody really knew where the SDMP funds were going, hinting of corruption in the local level.
“If it (SDMP) goes to politicians, we’re not sure if it really goes to the community,” she said.
She said she already committed a P200-million-a-year economy in Surigao and Dinagat Island, for example.
“I told the President, if I can’t do it, to just go and fire me. I don’t know, given my confirmation hearing is on May 2, maybe he doesn’t even have to fire me,” Lopez said.
She said that if mining companies worked with her in the development of these areas “they’re going to come out smelling like roses.”
Lopez later told reporters that the NPA rebels were “really not bad people” and took to the mountains out of frustration with the government.
“I love the NPA. They’re kind … I feel if you handle them the right way, they’ll be good because they’re also looking for ways to survive,” she said.
Lopez pointed out that an area development plan would soon be presented in a meeting with two mining firms, the NPA, the military, local officials and other stakeholders.
In her speech, Lopez asked the mining industry to give back to the communities affected by their operations.
She stressed that genuine economic growth should be achieved with “social justice.”
“I actually feel that the foundation of genuine economic growth is love. Why? Because if you love genuinely, you won’t hurt another; you won’t kill your rivers or streams; you will pay your people well; you will pay it forward; you will share. It’s just a whole different paradigm of looking at things,” she said.
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