Butuan City – Various environmental, academic and religious groups across the Caraga Region condemned the decision of the Commission of Appointment (CA) to thumb down the appointment of Regina Lopez as Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary, and issued calls for citizens to be united “in defense of the environment.”
“We strongly condemn the decision of the corrupt lawmakers when they rejected the confirmation of Lopez. We call upon the people to remain steadfast and be militant in our protection of the environment,” said Rev. Pio Mercado, spokesperson of the environmental group Caraga Watch.
Mercado pointed out that the politicians may have received financial support from commercial and industrial interests that “momentarily sated the insatiable greed of the decision makers.”
“The political cronies of these capitalist oligarchs have more than political clout; in their backroom dealings, money indeed talks. The mining lobby had paved the judgement of the CA, literally with gold, mined and extracted from our land, that was supposed to ensure the future of our children. This controversial decision of most of the lawmakers in the CA is typical of a so-called third world democracy controlled and driven by an elite class of bureaucrat capitalists who perpetuated feudalism in our resource-rich country, making our people wallow in dire poverty,” Mercado said.
“The mining oligarch has a distorted sense of reality and continues to spew more distorted arguments, but the fact remains that mining is destroying our environment, thus jeopardizing the present and succeeding generations of their future survival. All this is not for the benefit of our people, but rather to feed the rapacious greed of foreign capitalists and their local collaborators, who claim to be our leaders.”
“They had for a moment silenced a firebrand who honestly spoke for the people in their graft-ridden halls, but they forgot that, eventually, the people will take this responsibility and in massive and militant actions will remind the country that the environment belongs to the people, and not to those greedy capitalists,” Mercado concluded.
Lawyer Josefa Sorrera-Ty, Dean of the College of Law at the Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU) expressed the need for the people to be active participants in the process.
“The need for collective active action is at its utmost importance – action that reverberate beyond social media but which moves people to participate in the call and, if there is a chance, join in the protest. It’s time for the people to come out and show the administration we are adamant that they rectify the situation,” said Ty.
Ty stated further that the rebuff of Lopez at the CA should prompt various environmental groups to think out of the box.
“The fight is not over yet over. The next action should be to go back to our organizations. For us in the College of Law, we draw back, we study, because there are legal options there and, from there, we strategize. We just need to work with the people, empower them with us in the academe. We continue with our education campaign. The good thing about having Lopez in the forefront is that we were able to build a critical mass of our advocacy so that we could share resources and capacities. Let’s face reality, we cannot do it alone, we need other groups in this fight and establish more linkages,” Ty added.
Renalyn Gomez, spokesperson of the Student Christian Movement the Philippines and a student leader in Caraga State University (CSU), said: “We condemn what transpired during the CA hearing. The rejection is a loss to Duterte’s administration’s push for social reforms and justice. More so, it is a great dismay to the Filipino people, especially the peasant and lumad communities victimized by the environment plunder. The president could have done more if he truly believed in and supported Lopez.”
“We salute Sec. Gina, who fearlessly and passionately went against the interest of export-oriented mining. She fulfilled her mandate as a public servant to side with the poor and struggle for the integrity of life even in her short stay in DENR. We call on the strength of the youth, and the people, to end the imperialist plunder in our environment,” she said.
The Diocese of Tandag City in Surigao del Norte remained staunchly in support of Lopez: “We the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Tandag, comprising also the entire province of Surigao del Sur, together with our clergy and Bishop, strongly declare and manifest our full support for Regina Paz Lopez. After all the suffering of the people due to flash floods, landslides, typhoons, droughts and other natural disasters caused by climate change and aggravated by the denudation of our forests and the destruction of our mountains, rivers and seas, never in our recent history have we had a passionate environment chief so valiant and fearless in her political will to fulfill her agency’s mandate to protect and preserve as we utilize and develop our natural resources while defending the rights of the people to social justice.”
Marlon Villasor, an elementary public school teacher and online travel blogger, shared his disappointment and called on more people to speak up.
“I’m so disappointed. Because of greed, they took away our hope for a better environment. They just decided without thinking about what the people want. I urge others, lets speak out. If everybody speaks up, then so much the better, and if their will is for a call to march and protest, it would be the first for me, count me in,” said Villasor.