Capable managers needed, not soldiers | Inquirer Opinion
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Capable managers needed, not soldiers

/ 12:14 AM June 16, 2016

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is both misinformed and misguided on the issue of the environmental destruction caused by big mining companies. It seems he believes that big local and foreign mining companies are often or always more responsible for the destruction than small mining enterprises. The fact is, the small-scale mining industry is the one that really destroys the environment.

This is similar to the kaingin (slash-and-burn) practice that cuts down trees in mountain forests. When a strong typhoon hit Luzon in 2004, thousands of logs in Quezon province rolled down from the mountains to the rivers and bays. This revealed the extent of how small farmers denude our forests.

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I saw the damage done by small-scale miners in Mindanao in 1987 when I was a member of the fact-finding mission tasked by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to look into it. We flew by helicopter in three different locations. I recall Mt. Diwalwal where we saw the extensive damage done, not by the big mining companies but by the small-scale miners. (The members of our team included future Supreme Court Justice Adolf Azcuña and then Lepanto Consolidated Mining president Art Disini.) The DENR rules and regulations on the extraction of gold were not being enforced. The mercury used to extract gold from the ore was left to seep down from the mountain to the rivers and seas.

In 2011, I saw how small-scale mining in northern Luzon destroyed the environment. There was this huge mine deposit in Quirino, Ilocos Sur, at the boundary with Besao, Mountain Province. When I went there, there was no DENR or local government representative responsible for regulating the mining  activities.

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President-elect Duterte is wrong in his thinking that he needs a military man to head the DENR so that the soldiers can implement his orders with the mining companies. This is the most primitive line of reasoning. The DENR is a huge organization with offices all around the country. You need a manager there to run it.

The mining sector is not more than 20 percent of the scope of work of the DENR. In fact, there is only one bureau in the DENR headed by a director that attends to and regulates the mining industry. This is the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Duterte should not  militarize the DENR and the rest of the executive branch of the national government with his appointments of retired military generals and other officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They are not needed to head civilian government agencies. What are needed are managers with executive abilities.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

—R. B. RAMOS, [email protected]

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TAGS: Cabinet, DENR, environment, mining, Rodrigo Duterte
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