Local officials in mining areas throughout Caraga region have expressed hostility towards the Department of Environment (DENR) Secretary and long time environmental activist Regina “Gina” Lopez’s appointment.
The environment secretary said that she was seeking a “way forward” with miners, as she maintains her keen front against irresponsible mining. Lopez vexed the mining industry with suspension and closure orders for over 28 operating mines and browbeats to cancel 75 contracts.
However, a wave of detractors registered their protest against the naturalist and cited Lopez’s “incompetence” as DENR chief. Officials in Caraga, where mining is considered as the main source of livelihood, were troubled with the unintended consequences of Lopez’s drastic measures to put mining firms into a halt.
Surigao del Sur Gov. Vicente Pimentel apprised that the loss of mining jobs, where mining taxes comprise significant portion of local revenues could lead to increased criminality and further augment problems prevalent in the region.
“In Carrascal town, where I used to be mayor, we can expect the return of highway robberies, dynamite fishing and other problems that we had (already) addressed, as unemployment levels (could) rise with the loss of mining jobs,” Pimentel said.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, the sector by far the most affected by Lopez’s policies, was the most eager in its opposition, calling Lopez “unfit and unqualified to be the government’s lead regulator in natural resource development.”
According to the Regional Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau- Caraga, Roger de Dios, the loss of mining jobs could affect 300,000 individuals, which includes dependents of mining suppliers, subcontractors and local businesses.