WATCH | Infighting again: Gina Lopez protests Medialdea’s order vs P2-M rehab fund for farms damaged by mining operations

April 19, 2017 - 10:30 PM
File photos of DENR chief Gina Lopez and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, whom she accused of meddling in her work after he halted her controversial order to compel miners to contribute to a new trust fund not mandated by law. That trust fund, among others, earned her a case with the Ombudsman on Wednesday (May 3).

MANILA, Philippines – Infighting among Cabinet members of the Duterte administration has again surfaced this time between Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

The conflict between the two ranking officials stemmed from Lopez’s order that required suspended mining firms to first put up a rehabilitation fund of P2 million per two hectare of farmland damaged by their operations before the companies are allowed to remove and export their ore stockpiles.

But Medialdea countered the DENR chief’s move through the Office of the President’s issuance of a “stay order” against Lopez’s directive.

On Wednesday, April 19, Lopez told reporters of her disappointment over Medialdea’s action, claiming that it was against the Duterte administration’s pro-poor agenda.

“What’s happened is Bingbong MediaIdea has given a directive to all the mining companies counteracting my order. [It’s like] he’s going against the very spirit of the Duterte administration, which is to help the poor. So I’m not really happy about this at all,” the DENR secretary said.

Lopez defended her directive, explaining that the rehabilitation fund was a move towards “social justice” that would help cushion the impact of destructive mining activities on the farmers’ livelihood.

She added that the P2 million per hectare of exploited agricultural land that would be paid by mining firms was peanuts compared to the “hundreds of millions and billions of pesos” that the companies would earn from exporting their stockpiles.

The DENR chief said that if the firms won’t pay up, no one would answer for the needs of farmers, who were diplaced from their farms because of mining operations.

Eh ano’ng mangyayari sa magsasaka na out of the rehab area, sino’ng mag-aalaga sa kanila [What will happen to the farmers who are out of the rehab area, who will take care of them]?” Lopez asked.

But Medialdea told media on Wednesday that the OP order was issued “to prevent substantial damage that may result unless extracted ores are shipped out.”

The executive secretary also said that the same order “is not a final order but a mere provisional measure,” adding that the Palace “has not taken any legal position regarding the validity of the DENR requirement for mining companies to remit P2 [million] per hectare to a trust fund.”

“This is the very issue on appeal to the OP,” Medialdea added.

Last month, Lopez also criticized Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III for supposedly trying to “usurp” her power with the creation of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) in February.

The DENR chief said her decision to close down 23 big mining firms was final and could not be overturned by the MICC.

“When Sonny Dominguez said that he would spend P50 million to review mining operations, it seemed to me like spending money to do something which is similar to a usurpation of powers. You’re not supposed to do that,” Lopez said.

Lopez reiterated that the findings of the MICC would just be “recommendatory” as the law was in stating that the DENR is the sole government agency mandated to review mining operations.