By Charlie V. Manalo
There she goes again. From obscurity following the rejection of her appointment as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Gina Lopez, scion of the powerful Lopez clan, is struggling to gain some relevance.
In the aftermath of the tragic Itogon mining disaster, Lopez has been making herself felt in the media, again brandishing her supposed environmental cloak, this time lashing at legitimate mining firms including Benguet Corporation, blaming the mining firms for the death of dozens of small-scale miners.
According to Lopez, Benguet Corp.was instrumental in the proliferation of these ilegal mining operations as they have an agreement with the small-scale miners that all gold they would extract, would be sold to the giant mining firm.
Nice try Gina! No less than Itogon Mayor Victor Palangdan, whose wife used to be involved in buying gold from these small-scale miners, bared that miners prefer to sell their hoard to the black market and smugglers to evade paying taxes.
Before picking up the microphone again and start projecting herself as a no-nonsense environmental crusader at the expense of legitimate business companies just to make herself relevant again, Lopez should re-examine her checkered past and address the issues whioch brought her disgrace as an environmental secretary wannabe.
Has she forgotten that mere hours before she was rejected by the Commission on Appointments, she was slapped with a graft case.
For allegedly usurping the legislative powers of Congress by overstretching requirements mandated by the mining laws, including trying to force a mining firm to put up at least P130 million in a non-government organization essentially controlled by her, graft and administrative charges were filed against the former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary at the Office of the Ombudsman.
In a 41-page complaint filed by Citinickel Mines Development Corp., the mining firm accused Lopez of not only disregarded their duly-entered 25-year Mineral Production Sharing Agreement with the DENR when she ordered for their suspension, but throwing impediment after impediment as well against them, effectively ensuring non-enforcement of the MPSA.
Lopes, it could be recalled, required mining firms she arbitrarily suspended to put up multi-million trust funds for the rehabilitation of affecting mining areas before they could be allowed to remove their stockpiles from the affected areas.
However, the same is separate from and on top of the existing rehabilitation trust fund set up by the government as required under Article 71 of the Republic Act 7942 and DENR Administrative Order 2010-10.
DENR documents showed that on Jan. 30, 2017, Lopez, in a Memorandum, ordered all suspended mining firms to each open a trust fund account in the amount of P2 million per every hectare of disturbed land before they can be allowed to remove their stockpiles from mining areas and given export permits.
Several suspended mining firms are reported to have been required to put up a trust funds ranging from as low as P150 million to as high as P300 million depending on the volume or area of affected mining sites before they are allowed to remove their stockpile and be issued a Mineral Ore Export Permit.
Incidentally, Gina is now blaming large mining firms for the death of small-scale miners in the Itogon disaster. But last year, she was caught blaming small-scale miners in Aroroy in Masbate for threatening marine life in that particular area resulting from tons of mine waste dumped into a river, when in fact, residents in the area had been pointing at a mining company Filminera as the culprit.
Reportedly showing her biases for Filmenera which was said to have pledged P150 million for her project, Lopez was said to have passed on the blame to small-scale miners whom she described as having no track record compared to her.
Lopez also earned the ire of DENR employees for insisting on her appointment of Philip Camara as one of her undersecretaries even as he lacks civil service requirements for such.
According to sources, Camara’s appointment had something to do with his being a former president of Biochar, a company engaged in mining rehabilitation. Sources add Biochar was allegedly accorded a P9-billion contract by Gina herself.
Had enough? No, Gina herself had admitted lobbying with the Department of Energy to “fast-track” the release of the permit for a $100-million solar farm in Zamboanga on behalf of the French company, EcoGlobal Inc. whose head was her former subordinate at the DENR.
EcoGlobal Inc. reportedly footed the bill for hertrip to Paris purportedly to thresh out matters about the Pasig River Rehabilitation Project to be carried out by EcoGlobal Inc.
Not only was the trip illegal as it wassponsored by a private contractor, but how she carried out the Pasig River rehabilitation is questionable as Pasig river remains today as it was then—filthy.
And the list goes on.
It would be better if Gina stopped hurling stones form her glasshouse as she herself is beset with legal issues arising from her environmental masquerade. Her words might be tainted with interest and lack of moral turpitude.