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If the mountain will not come to Mahomet. . .
Sooner or later the rational thing to do would be to think about splitting the Department of Environment and Natural Resources into the Department of the Environment and the Department of Natural Resources (or Mining).
The more we listen with all our might to the double-barreled hearings in the Senate (Commission on Appointments) and the House of Representatives (on the suspension and closure of mines and projects) – where DENR Secretary Gina Lopez is being grilled, in absentia, on both sides of her gills – the more we know that we know nothing or else very little about the intricacies and complexities of mining as a vocation, a profession, a business.
If the Duterte administration could so easily cut the DoTC in two, thereby creating the Department of Transportation and the Department of Information Technology and Communications with one stroke of the presidential pen, it could just as easily study the pros and cons of creating two departments out of one to handle the protection of the environment and the development of the mining industry.
The natural environment is too big for one department to handle. Not only is it a thankless job, it’s a boundless one, covering the air we breathe and the wind that moves leaves to dance, it leaps as high as the blue sky and plunges into the crystalline depths of lakes and rivers, it paints the jade of mountains and the emerald of islands, it is the water in our taps and the rain that falls on our roofs, it embraces the rangers who guard our forests and the divers who dive for pearls and shoot pictures of the world under six fathoms, it lives for flora and fauna and homo sapiens. The “environment” is a microcosm of the cosmos, beyond the meters and parameters of regulation. As the simplest of examples, which DENR secretary has ever recruited enough forest rangers and hired scavengers to clean up the Pasig River? All this as we face the specter of climate change to tame and mitigate, or suffer and perish.
By separating DE from DNR, technocrats and bureaucrats in the two departments will be able to pay full attention to their certifiable expertise. It is time to separate the conjoined twins. It will be a new era for the mining industry when they are given their own pro-mining secretary, provided he or she does not flunk the test on conflict of interest. (Jullie Y. Daza)