MANILA –Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Sunday challenged Environment Sec. Gina Lopez to start developing her “green economy” first as he welcomed the Duterte administration’s decision to put on hold the closure and suspension orders on 28 mines purportedly to give way to due process.
Barbers, whose constituents are affected by the closure and suspension order, urged Lopez to first put up and develop her “green economy”” and show that it can be done to employ mining workers under responsible mining.
“Put up your ‘green economy’ first, develop it and employ these people, then you can tell the mining companies to stop,” the Mindanao lawmaker said.
At the same time, Barbers lauded President Rodrigo Duterte and his Cabinet for collectively deciding to observe the right to due process of the affected mining firms.
“We welcome the move of the President and his men because this will provide due process and justice,” Barbers stressed, explaining that tens of thousands of workers are expected to be affected should the DENR implement the order to close 23 mining firms and suspend five others without giving them the opportunity to respond.
Barbers acknowledged the legitimate grievances of the affected sector, explaining the order will bring more harm than good because mining has been very important to the economy.
He also joined House Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza, a former DENR Secretary, in calling for Lopez to make a full public disclosure of the audit report against the mining firms.
“This is a very serious matter, the immediate full public disclosure of the report will provide answers to our basic questions and for the sake of transparency and accountability,” Barbers said.
Earlier, Barbers assailed Lopez for her decision, explaining the audit results were purportedly made secret and many of the firms affected by the ruling are legitimate and responsible in their operations.
He said Lopez could have been misled by one of her alleged consultants, former DENR Undersecretary and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) chief Leo Jasareno, who headed the audit team but was later on sacked by President Duterte.
According to Barbers, the so-called environmental violations, if true, could be the result of years of alleged neglect or tolerance of former Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and the Jasareno-led MGB.
The lawmaker from Surigao del Norte said there was no alleged transparency in the audit of mining firms and Lopez was “apparently fed highly-technical information that only Jasareno et al could understand and interpret.”
Related to this, Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Mangaoang and Coop-Natcco Partylist Rep. Anthony Bravo have formally filed House Resolution (HR) No. 756 to conduct a congressional investigation for Lopez to explain her alleged selective order and supposed absence of due process in her orders which could affect the country’s economy.
Mangaoang and Bravo said the inquiry is aimed at protecting the mining industry which is a great partner towards the country’s economic development.