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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Hooray for Gina

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I admire Regina Paz Lopez (no relation). She is gritty, tough as nails. I tend to share her view that mining has been bad for this country and its people. 

Considering her toughness, President Duterte should have recruited Gina to manage his illegal drugs war—imagine mass murders nuanced with gender equality and backed by what is claimed to be the largest and powerful broadcast network in the land.  

ABS-CBN could have mined details of extrajudicial killings as fodder for its popular daily “Ang Probinsyano” series.   Some of the takes could be reality TV at its best, meaning action with no retakes.  The potential for Gina in charge of the illegal drugs war would have been tremendous!

President Duterte has given signals Gina must paddle her own canoe when facing the CA to secure confirmation as secretary of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).   The President has said if she is not confirmed, she will not be reappointed.

In managing the DENR and implementing its mandate, Gina has focused on the environment, rather than the exploitation side of natural resources, which is mining.  In focusing on the environment, she has been rough.  She has no due process, the mines claim.

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Gina withstood two days of grilling at the bilateral, two-chamber, multi-party Commission on Appointments which is out to cut her down to size and deny her a well-deserved plum, a powerful cabinet post to pursue her advocacy.   Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez has told her the cabinet is the wrong place as a venue for one’s advocacy—which is protection of the environment.

Before her appointment to the DENR, I thought Gina’s environmental  advocacy (like cleaning once in a while the hopeless Pasig River) was nothing more than a leisure activity for a rich heiress with nothing better to do. 

The Lopez Business Empire is awesome and Gina has not been active in it.  The Lopez family owns half of ABS-CBN Corp. (which has a market cap of P39 billion) and is managed by her brother, Gabby Lopez.  The family also owns half of First Philippine Holdings Corp. (market cap: P40 billion) which is managed by her uncle, Oscar Lopez and his affable son, Peki.   Both ABS-CBN and FPH are owned by the two Lopez brothers—the late Geny, and his brother, the ailing patriarch Oscar Lopez.  Geny’s heirs are Gabby and Gina.

If you are looking for a definition of vested interest, you cannot go farther than the 24-member CA.  The other day, Gina told the vice chairman of the Commission, San Juan Congressman Ronnie Zamora, “your brother destroyed a mountain!” And Ronnie, a bar topnotcher and a grizzled politician, could not summon a repartee, except a smile.

Ronnie’s brother, a nickel miner, backed a different presidential candidate in the May 2016 elections.   That candidate, of course lost, despite awesome financial backing from Ronnie’s brother.

The other day, the CA in effect fired Perfecto Yasay, as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, for lying about his US citizenship.  That was an easy choice, a no-brainer.   Yasay has not been forthcoming, said a CA top honcho.    Had the CA endorsed Yasay, we would have had a DFA headed by one who was a former or current American citizen or is stateless at worst.  With a DFA led by a US citizen, you could not have an independent foreign policy.  Headed by someone who no citizenship, DFA could have pursued—how do you call it—a multi-polar foreign policy, friend to all, enemy to none.  There is not such country today.

Back to Gina.  Her statistics presented to the CA yesterday are compelling. Mining generates revenues of P82 billion and employs 235,000.  Tourism, on the other hand, generates P982 billion and employs 4.7 million.  Tourism does not destroy the environment, except when you are referring to overweight bikini-clad tourists posing against the sun at Boracay.    Mining makes P35.5 billion in yearly profits.  Of that, P29.2 billion or 82 percent is collected by the mining companies. 

The government gets P6.2 billion or a paltry 17.5 percent.  Such lopsided figures in favor of the mining companies Gina equates with lack of social justice which she defines roughly as nearly everyone benefitting from the mining moolah. 

Gina’s background is literature.  In literature, one of the literary devices is hyperbole which in local slang you can equate with hyper bola.

In February, Gina ordered the closure of 23 mines—including the biggest mines in Asia.   She also canceled 75 mining agreements—the mining industry equivalent of a private-public partnership—without due process, according to the mining companies.  “My issue here is not about mining.  My issue here is social justice,” she keeps saying.

I am sure if she applied social justice to extrajudicial killings, fewer poor or squatter people would be killed.  Maybe, she could even get a couple of bigtime drug lords some of whom masquerade as politicians.  Criminals like drug lords  destroy the environment.

Yesterday, Gina said no mines have been closed yet, an apparent turnabout.  She now claims only the President can order a mine closure.

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