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Duterte backs Gina Lopez despite Dominguez, Medialdea’s pro-mining roadblock

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President Rodrigo Duterte has reaffirmed his support for Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and her campaign to make the Philippines mining free in the face of resistance from Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

In a speech Wednesday, Duterte said he fully backed Lopez’s anti-mining advocacy after seeing the destruction wrought by the mining companies on the environment from his airplane window while criss-crossing the country during the 2016 campaign.

“I agree with Gina, that kung maaari lang… Hindi lang kasi nakita ninyo. You might want to go to Davao one of these days. Parang tansan, alam mo ang tansan ng Coca-Cola na may cork. Ganun ‘yan sa bukid,” said Duterte.

“It’s not a tunnel thing, it’s open pit. Kaya when it rains, popondo ‘yang tubig and over time it loosens the bowels of the Earth. And then you have landslide and everything,” he added.

Duterte explained that he appointed Lopez because of her no nonsense approach to enforcing the country’s mining rules that have been abused by oligarchs who exert their influence by “just waiting who wins the election.”

“Iniligay ko naman si Gina, she is very strict. Si Gina naman told me frankly, ‘I want the Philippines to be mine-free.’ Sabi ko how can we do that? We have to amend the law. There’s a mining law which allows mining. And besides we get on the average 70 billion a year ‘yan for these mining companies,” said Duterte.

Duterte’s endorsement came amid efforts by Dominguez to overturn Lopez’s order to shutter 23 mining operations and suspend five others through the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).

Dominguez, through his protege, Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, has also sided with mining firms in opposing Lopez’s appointment at the Commission on Appointments. Both Dominguez and Agabin were part of of the Philippine management team of Lafayette Mining Ltd. of Australia which was responsible for the Rapu-Rapu mining disaster 10 years ago.

Aside from Dominguez, Medialdea has also moved to undermine Lopez’s powers by counteracting her order for mining firms to fork out P2 million compensation for farmers and fisher folk before mining firms could transport their stockpiles from their mine sites.