Press Releases

Responding to complaints from local residents in Mt. Talinis against the Energy Development Corporation’s (EDC) planned expansion of its geothermal plant in Negros Oriental, Environment Secretary Regina Lopez yesterday said she will not hesitate to “use the full force of the law” to protect the environment and preserve the ecological balance of Mt. Talinis and other biodiversity areas.

“We will look into this and I assure the public that DENR will be fair through the entire process and take into account the concerns of all,” said environment chief Lopez.

Some local residents and representatives of some organizations are opposing EDC’s expansion saying it would lead to cutting of old-growth trees in the local mountain range.

EDC, which operates a 223-megawatt geothermal plant in Valencia, Negros Oriental, submitted an application for environmental clearance certificate for the expansion of the plant’s capacity by some 60 additional megawatts.

The DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau office in the region has held public hearings on the application to gather the position and opinions of stakeholders.

“Through good environmental governance, we aim to harmonize our economic activities with nature through sound practices that will not only address climate change but ensure the sustainable use of our resources, conservation and preservation” Lopez said.

Lopez said this is the paramount reason for her adherence to strict compliance with environmental laws, rules, regulations and standards, stressing “there is no room for violation.”

“This is our guiding principle, our commitment, our preaching and our practice in our quest for sustainable development. This is our call to all stakeholders,” she said.

“Our concern for the environment and the pursuit of the common good transcends familial and other ties,” she added.####

Secretary Regina L. Lopez on Thursday rallied the people of Mindanao including the officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to work together to make Mindanao a model of social justice and upliftment.

“Mindanao resources are for Mindanawans, not for business and foreign interests. Let’s make Mindanao a model of social justice and upliftment,” Lopez said during the Mindanao Environment Summit held at the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU).

Some 4,000 representatives from civil society, including indigenous peoples, farmers, fisherfolk and the academe attended the summit highlighted by the presentation of the state of the Mindanao environment (SOMEDay).

Lopez decried the environmental damage brought about by several business interests, particularly the mining sector, as shown in SOMEDay, calling the destruction, a “social injustice”.

The environment chief said that it “hurt her” to see and hear communities in damaged areas losing their livelihood and their resources due to the seeming indifference of mining and other businesses taking advantage of Mindanao’s wealth.

“Mindanao is for Mindanaoans. When its resources are used by others for business and foreign interest, that is social injustice,” she stressed.

“Mindanao is so wealthy, in resources and in intelligent minds. We should all work together to make sure that Mindanao’s resources are enjoyed by the people of Mindanao,” she stated.

Lopez then instructed all DENR officials at the venue to ensure that the agency’s mandate to enforce social justice is followed.

The Mindanao Environment Summit was jointly organized by the DENR and AdDU as a strategy for the DENR to interact closer with stakeholders of the environment.

It is also a step towards Lopez’s thrust to transform the DENR from being “merely regulatory” to being “an activator and catalyzer of change.”

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez is eyeing the prospect of providing financial support for indigenous peoples (IPs) who wish to set up their own businesses.

Lopez said she plans to establish an enterprise development program for IPs using the resources of the state-owned Natural Resources Development Corp. (NRDC), the corporate arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The new DENR chief said she wants to instill entrepreneurship among IPs and help them improve their lives.

“To my delight, I have found out that one of the GOCCs (government-owned and -controlled corporations) of the DENR is the NRDC,” Lopez said.

She has directed the corporation to draw up the mechanics of a program to provide financial and other forms of assistance to IPs and to set aside the needed funds.

“When I went to Palawan, I found out that the IPs there have abaca, rattan and almaciga. They have so much in their lands, but they do not have the money [to start their own business],” she pointed out.

According to Lopez, the IPs normally seek the help of Chinese traders for business capital. As a result, she said, these traders “use the ancestral rights of the IPs to get their natural resources and money.”

“What if the IPs conduct a joint venture with the NRDC? This means that if they lack the capital or the financial resources, we can give it to them,” Lopez said.

Established in 1982 by virtue of Executive Order No. 786, the NRDC aims to promote investment in natural resources-based industries by providing financial, technical or management support.

“All I need is an approval from the President that the net income there flows back to the community,” Lopez said.

She added: “If that is allowed, which I am almost sure because he is for the people, then the DENR can be great tool for poverty alleviation in areas where there are environmental concerns.”

Lopez cited the La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City as an example of an ecological area which earns P40 million a year.

She said there are around 17,000 couples holding their prenuptial photo-shoots in the ecopark. “If we convert all those photo-shoots into income, that’s how much money the community gets.”

“I want to replicate that kind of entrepreneurial venture in all our National Greening Program areas, which means that after we do agroforestry, we go to business, and the money goes to the community,” Lopez said.

“We need to put a spirit of enterprise in all the areas so that the people would benefit.” ###

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has promised to strengthen civil society participation in environmental governance, which is guided by the principle of the common good.

Lopez, in her most recent speaking engagement, said that civil society organizations (CSOs) have a critical role to play in ensuring the success of policies and programs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), including the ongoing review of all mining operations in the country.

In fact, Lopez said the CSOs have already started working with the new administration by providing vital information that became the basis for the suspension of abusive and non-compliant mining firms.

"One of the things that I would like to do now is to open up a civic sector arm in the DENR. Before there was a desk, now it should be an arm," Lopez said in her keynote address at the Public Forum on the Environmental Policy Agenda for the Duterte Administration and the 17th Congress held in Quezon City last Friday.

The forum was organized by the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), in cooperation with the Foundation for the Philippine Environment and the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation.

ALG is a coalition of 20 legal resource non-governmental organizations that adhere to the principles and values of alternative or developmental law.

Since Lopez assumed office on July 1, a total of seven mining firms have already been suspended for not complying with environmental safety standards. These are BenguetCorp. Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., Hinatuan Mining Corp., Berong Nickel Corp., and Citinickel Mines and Development Corp.

All seven mining firms are operating in Luzon, four in Zambales and three in Palawan. Lopez said more mining companies will be suspended this week when the DENR concludes its mining audit in Mindanao, particularly in Surigao.

At the ALG forum, Lopez assured that she will always consider the common good in all her decisions at the DENR.

"Why were laws made by man? To protect the common good. So the common good is pre-eminent before anything else," Lopez told the audience who are mostly lawyers involved in civic works.

She added: "You know what's right and wrong in your heart. You don't need a law to tell what's right and wrong. You find a law to protect the common good."

With strong determination and the help of CSOs and other partners, Lopez said she is confident the DENR will be able to achieve its commitment for the common good.

"If you have the will, the heart, and if you base this on the non-negotiable stance of integrity, that is a vessel on which higher forces land," Lopez stressed.

"There is nothing in the world that can stand in the way in the people united for a noble cause," she added. ###

The country's metal production dropped 12 percent to P22 billion in the first quarter of 2016 due to persistent soft metal prices in the world market, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) reported.

The amount is lower by almost P3 billion compared to the P24.98 billion in total metal production value recorded from January to March of 2015, said the bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The MGB report came after the DENR started issuing suspension orders against several mining firms as part of an ongoing audit of all mining operations in the country.

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez even vowed to block the US$5.9-billion Tampakan mine project, the largest copper-gold project in Southeast Asia, if it will operate as an open-pit mine which is highly destructive of the environment.

"I don't really like Tampakan at all. I have to live by my set of principles. And there is no way I would ever, ever, ever allow a 700 football field open pit mine on top of agricultural land," Lopez said.

She added: "It's immoral. For me it's socially unjust to allow business companies to make money and put the lives of all the farmers and indigenous people there at risk."

The Tampakan project, which straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, Saranggani, Sultan and Davao del Sur, has an estimated reserve of 18 million tons of gold and 15 million tons of copper.

According to the MGB, gold had the highest production value of 10.68 billion or 48.34 percent of the country's overall metal output during the first three months of 2016.

The bureau said this was due to the increased gold production of Masbate Gold Project of Filminera Mining Corporation and Philippine Gold Processing and Refining Corporation in Masbate at 1,640 kilograms (kg), and Didipio Gold Project of Oceana Gold Philippines Inc. in Nueva Vizcaya at 1,456 kg.

Direct shipping nickel ore and mixed sulfide, which were consistently on the top of the production list since 2012, slipped to second spot at 31.12 percent or a total production value of P6.88 billion.

The MGB attributed the slow start of nickel ore production to the unfavorable weather condition in Dinagat and Surigao provinces, which are among the top producers of the precious metal.

It noted that 17 of the 12 mining firms operating in those provinces reported zero production during the three-month period. ###