Ultimately, what doomed Gina Lopez’s confirmation bid in Congress was her failure to understand what her real job was as environment and natural resources secretary. She wanted to continue being a one-dimensional environmental campaigner when she should have been balancing the interests of all stakeholders; her job demanded that she play referee, but she wanted to be a partisan.
I’ve always believed that there is room for someone like Lopez in the government, but not as secretary of DENR. An environmental crusader like her belongs in an independent state watchdog outfit patterned after the US Environmental Protection Agency, something that we don’t have, unfortunately.
The basic flaw in the DENR’s structure, which was incidentally exposed during Lopez’s confirmation hearings, is that the department has a split personality: It is in charge of exploiting our natural resources for the benefit of the people and to earn revenues for government, and yet it is also the regulator of this state-allowed exploitation.
The DENR gives permits for mining companies, for example. But it is also in charge of auditing them and making them comply with environmental protection standards.
This is an untenable situation. The ideal set up should let the DENR and its attached agencies continue their work of accepting and approving permits for mining and other exploitative industries.