Philippines: Bishop Backs Anti-Mining Minister

A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has expressed support for the country’s environment minister who initiated the closure of several mining operations in recent months.

The congressional Commission on Appointments has refused to confirm the appointment of Regina Lopez, a staunch anti-mining activist who was named environment minister by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We respectfully beg the president to keep Lopez who is always with us in our battle to protect the environment and all of creations,” said Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa.

The prelate led a “prayer march” for Lopez outside the main office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City on Feb. 2.

In a letter to the president on Jan. 30, Archbishop Arguelles said Lopez’s efforts to protect the environment has given people “hope.”

After meeting with religious leaders on Feb. 2, Lopez announced the closure of 21 more mining operations in several areas in the country.

“Why is mining more important than people’s lives?” said the minister in a media briefing.

She said mining operations that she ordered closed were in functional watersheds.

Since Lopez assumed office, she has already suspended at least 25 mining companies and has been auditing dozens.

Archbishop Arguelles said the church is “fully behind and strongly supports” Lopez initiatives.

He called on President Duterte “to influence” the Commission on Appointments to confirm Lopez and demonstrate the “sincere pro-poor, pro-environment, and pro-country stand” of the government.

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