Environment Undersecretary Art Valdez, who led the country's first contingent that conquered Mount Everest in 2006 and 2007, underscored on Tuesday the importance of the Commission on Appointment's vote on the confirmation of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez, who again faces the CA on March 8.

"Tomorrow's CA vote is important. Not only will our Senators and Congressmen be deciding on the fate of a good person whose heart and mind has been proven so many times to be in the right place, but her cause, her fight is righteous," Valdez said.

Lopez's confirmation has faced stiff opposition from mining operators who questioned the DENR's cancellation of 23 mining concessions due to violations of environmental laws.

Valdez emphasized that the matter of the environment crosses political lines, religious affiliations, age, gender, economic condition, and is an issue that affects every Filipino.

"We're not just talking about current individual issues on mines, watershed protection, illegal logging or the dismantling of illegal fishpens. The more crucial and overarching concern is protecting an environment that can sustain us at present, and which our children and generations of Filipinos yet unborn can still enjoy in the future."

Environment groups have expressed support for Lopez's appointment and have sided with the Secretary in her row with pro-mining interests.

These groups cite mining industry statistics showing that the gross value added in mining averaged about 0.65 percent of GDP for 2012-2016. Metallic and non-metallic exports, for instance, account for only 5% of total exports.

"The forests, mountains, rivers, flora and fauna that we lose now due to failure to enforce our environmental laws in exchange for short-term economic gains cannot be replaced anymore. They are lost forever. I'm sure our lawmakers don't want that. The CA vote is nothing less than a once in a lifetime opportunity for our Senators and Congressmen to affirm their stand on the environment." Valdez clarified. ###