Hundreds march to urge PRRD to reappoint DENR Sec. Gina Lopez

Hundreds from grassroots communities, civil society groups and people’s organizations frustrated from the Commission of Appointment’s rejection of Sec. Gina Lopez’s appointment took to the streets andmarched from Espana, Manila to Mendiola to call for the reappointment of “the People’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary.”

Led by the widest nationwide coalition of green civil society organizations, Green Thumb Coalition (GTC), with Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) and Sanlakas as two of its convenors, organized this protest action as part of its week-long call for the President to safeguard the gains of the People from Lopez’s ten-month stint as the Environmental Secretary.

Gerry Arances, Head Convenor of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED), noted that while her strict implementation of policies regarding mining were no small feat, Lopez’s contribution to the environment goes beyond them.

“A staunch believer in the seen potential of renewable energy, Lopez has denied the issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) to potentially destructive energy projects, such as coal-fired power plants with respect to the precautionary principle,” said Arances. “Lopez has also been an advocate of climate justice, being one of the movers inside the Cabinet in getting the President to sign the Paris Agreement despite the President’s earlier statements opposing it,” he added.

Arances emphasized that the developments under Lopez’s DENR were the culmination of decades of resistance from communities facing destruction from environmentally-destructive activities. “The outrage from Filipino citizens from all walks of life just goes to show that Gina is not alone in the fight to protect the environment and the People’s rights,” Arances stated.

“The fruits gained under Gina’s DENR were a product of decades of struggle from the part of communities and advocates. As a tribute to those who have sacrificed and borne so much in protecting the environment and the People, we cannot let the gains we have achieved to be lost with the CA’s rejection of Gina,” he concluded.

Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, meanwhile, pointed out that while the interests of the mining industry as the deciding factor in determining Gina’s appointment, President Duterte also is liable for the CA’s rejection, as he “fed her to the dogs” in failing to convince the members of the Commission of Appointments, many of whom belong to President’s supermajority in the Congress, to support Lopez and her initiatives in the DENR by confirming her appointment.

“The steps Sec. Lopez has taken in her short time as the DENR Secretary has been unprecedented, as she exercised political will and dedication to uncompromisingly protect the environment,” said Pedrosa. “No wonder those from the mining industry, whose pockets are in danger of getting lighter moved heaven and earth, not to mention their pawns inside the CA, to decide against her confirmation,” he added.

“However, President Duterte is not safe from blame and cannot act like Pilate washing his hands from accountability. With majority of the Congress being his allies, it is preposterous to think that the President can do nothing to protect the stellar performance of his counterpart in the DENR,” said Pedrosa.

“The President has even failed to quell the divisiveness fostered by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, his long-time personal friend from the mining industry, who continually undermined Sec. Lopez’s efforts in regulating environmentally-destructive business practices,” Pedrosa stated.

Pedrosa said that the President must once and for all choose his side in this issue. “We know whose interests the CA stands by. The question now is, who does the President side with?” Pedrosa concluded.