CONGRESS last year enacted a bill creating a Department of Transportation (DoTr) and a separate Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT). Transportation alone is such a big area that the DOTr is today up to its neck in the difficult problem of traffic gridlock in Metro Manila and other urban centers in the country. As for the DICT, it must plan for the great new world of digital communication in the cyber universe that knows no bounds on our planet.
A similar plan to split the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) did not prosper. Perhaps, if we had today a Department of Environment separate from a Department of Natural Resources, we could minimize the problems we are facing in connection with the closing of 23 mines and the cancellation of 75 mining permits by new DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.
It has been said that the present problem of so many environmental resulted from inaction by previous DENR officials who were more concerned with the natural resources part of the department. Now that we have a passionate environmentalist in charge, previous decisions favoring mining companies are being challenged. The pendulum, as it were, has swung from one end to the other.
The inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) has now set up a review committee to look into mining operations in the country and the recent directives of Secretary Lopez. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) are looking into the effects of the mining closures on people in the affected communities.
In the ongoing review of problems and complications that arose as a result of the recent DENR action, it might be an opportune time to revive the proposal to separate the government offices looking after the environment and natural resources development. The two areas do seem to have contending interests. One is concerned with preserving, conserving the environment. The other is concerned with exploiting natural resources, which of necessity requires digging up the earth to get to the minerals.
Asked about this in a recent interview, Secretary of Finance Carlos Dominguez recalled that the original agency was the DEENR – for Department of Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources. Energy became a separate department, so greater attention could be focused on such a vital concern. It may be time to further separate environment from natural resources, which equally deserves massive attention. Such a move is “long overdue,” Secretary Dominguez said.
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