Philippines struggles to balance environment, mining (Deutsche Welle – May 17, 2017)

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The fight for environmental protection in the Philippines has faced a setback with the recent downfall of the Southeast Asian nation’s outspoken environment chief, Regina Lopez, who earned the ire of the mining industry after accusing it of corruption.

Even President Rodrigo Duterte, who enjoys widespread popularity, said he was helpless to save Lopez from being dismissed by a panel of lawmakers – the Commission on Appointments (CA) – scrutinizing her appointment. Duterte suggested “lobby money” influenced the decision.

Lopez was handpicked by the president to head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), claiming that her passion for the environment made her a natural choice for the post. The president’s pick was widely applauded by environmental groups, but less by the business sector.

“It’s a pity about Gina (Lopez). I really liked her passion,” Duterte said about the CA’s rejection of Lopez’s appointment. “This is a democracy and lobby money talks. I do not control everything.” Unsurprisingly, the mining industry welcomed her dismissal, while environmental groups were scathing in their criticism.

Following the decision, Greenpeace protesters blocked the entrance of the DENR office to send a clear message: DENR is not open for business. They sat cross-legged on the ground, their waists were chained to the steel gate and their arms locked together by black tubes.

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