On the Occasion of Earth Day: Farmers-scientists group expresses support for Sec. Gina Lopez and calls for the protection of environment

PRESS RELEASE

Farmers-scientists group MASIPAG welcomes the renewed appointment of Dept. Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez by President Rodrigo Duterte, and deems it timely with the global commemoration of Earth Day this April 22. The President re-dappointed Sec. Lopez, along with Sec. Judy Taguiwalo (Welfare), Sec. Rafael Mariano (Agrarian Reform) and Sec. Paulyn Ubial (Health) after they were bypassed by the Committee of Appointments in the House of Representatives.

“We are pleased with the re-appointment of Sec. Gina Lopez, as we believe that she strongly cares for the environment and the people,” Cris Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG. “We laud her firm stand against the destruction of our natural resources, especially by large-scale mining operations.”

“In this day and age when we are already experiencing the intense effects of climate change, now is the time to stop destructive activities such as large-scale, commercial mining and massive use of harmful agricultural chemicals. We should now focus on rehabilitating the environment and preserving what is left of our precious biodiversity and natural resources,” added Panerio.

In March, the CA refused to confirm Sec Lopez after mining companies intensely lobbied to oppose her appointment at Philippine Congress. Sec. Lopez has recently declared the closure of 23 mines and the suspension of operations of 5 mines found to be violating environmental laws, after an audit of 41 mining firms. She is now at the receiving end of both the praise of environmental groups, and flak from mining companies and apologists, with the representatives of the latter testifying against Sec. Lopez during the CA hearings.

MASIPAG and its member organizations strongly oppose large-scale mining because of its impacts on food and agricultural production, the loss of biodiversity and destruction of the environment.

“Contrary to the promise of better life for the people and the community, the mining operations in our province only brought suffering,” said Elmer Bolusan, a farmer-leader from MASIPAG in Nueva Vizcaya. “It is deplorable that mining companies brag about rural development when in fact they only destroy our environment, our source of culture and livelihood. The big mining corporations benefit from environmental destruction while the people remain hungry and poor.”

Nueva Vizcaya is among the provinces with the most number of mining applications – said to be almost double the size of the province as the applications are “piled on top of the other.” Farmers and indigenous peoples’ groups in the province have been locked in an intense battle as the mining applications stand to damage critical watershed areas.

“The mining operations in the mountain ranges of Nueva Vizcaya have displaced scores of settlers, destroyed sources of livelihoods, and even caused the conflicts among tribes that are traditionally at peace with each other,” stated Bolusan.

“We need a DENR secretary like Sec. Gina Lopez who has the political will to go after destructive mining operations that poses threats to environment and people’s health and livelihood,” Roberto Cordova, a farmer leader from Negros.

“In southern Negros, the operation of Maricalum Mining Company (MMC) has brought untold sufferings for farmers and years of protest remains unheard by DENR officials. The collapse of the tailings dam of MMC has destroyed more than 1,000 hectares of rice lands in Sipalay City and cases of heavy metal poisoning among the populace. Almost 85 percent of land area of the City of Sipalay and Municipality of Hinobaan were covered by mining applications,” added Cordova.

“Despite the outrageous claims of the mining companies, and even some academe, the contribution of the mining industry in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) only ranges from 0.6-0.7% since 2012,” said XL Fuentes Jr., Regional Coordinator for MASIPAG in Mindanao. “Meanwhile, agriculture contributes 10% of our GDP, therefore farming is far more significant in our economy and is way less destructive than mining.”

“Sec. Gina is right in putting priorities in the conservation of our environment and natural resources to benefit the people, and for that, she has all our support,” added Fuentes.

Sec. Lopez’s advocacy is right along the campaigns and calls of MASIPAG for a more sustainable development, as espoused in MASIPAG’s programs for farmer-led and farmer-centered sustainable agriculture. For more than 30 years, MASIPAG has pushed for an alternative method of agricultural productions that emphasized the conservation and improvement of agrobiodiversity, and maximizing the available natural resources to improve and develop farm production. MASIPAG promotes diversification and integration of farms, as well as using local resources for soil fertility management, enabling the farmers to avoid the use of harmful synthetic chemical inputs. The reduced cost of production, along with the added income from surplus agricultural products has allowed the farmers to also enjoy the economic, as well as health benefits of organic, sustainable production. ###