ucanews.com reporter, ManilaUpdated: July 04, 2016 11:55 AM GMT
Philippine Environment Secretary Gina Lopez speaks on the ill-effects of mining during a prayer-rally in May 2016. (ucanews.com photo by Jimmy Domingo)
The Philippine's new environmental chief has vowed to use Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, Laudato si', as guide in implementing laws to protect the environment.
"I’m gonna follow [Laudato si']," said Regina Lopez, an anti-mining advocate who was named head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources by President Rodrigo Duterete last week.
The new minister said the Duterte government’s policy is similar to what the encyclical teaches: "love of country, subordination of personal interest to the common good, concern and care for health."
"We will follow the president and we will follow Laudato si’," said Lopez on July 1, adding that the new administration will focus on fighting climate change and adapting to it.
The new environment secretary said her priority would include protecting marine and forest biodiversity in a way that will benefit local communities.
She also vowed to stop big mining operations, adding that the interests of the people will be non-"negotiable."
Lopez has already ordered an audit of all mining operations in the country.
Church leaders welcome Lopez
Catholic Church leaders welcomed the minister's statement.
"We can collaborate with her," said Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo.
Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao cheered Lopez’s decision to "make plans to administer the protection of the country’s natural resources."
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro called for the creation of a multi-sectoral social audit group including the church to monitor watershed protection.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said Catholics should also do "acts of mercy" for the environment.
"We should help [the government] ... starting in our parishes and schools," the prelate said.
"Let us pray that [Lopez's] passion for the environment will deliver a lot of good things for our country,” said Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga appealed to Lopez to prioritize the closure of coal plants in the Philippines.
The prelate said Laudato si' "is an exemplary guideline for the love and care of our mother earth."
Retired Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan of Tuguegarao was impressed by Lopez’s words. "With this, we expect a better Philippines, a better world. We bless her efforts," the prelate said.
People's lives are 'paramount'
In her July 1 speech, Lopez vowed to "never, ever do anything that will put at risk the lives of our people."
"Their lives are paramount," she said. "It's my determination and commitment that people living in these islands should not suffer."
"We have the most flora and fauna exclusive to this country. My God! How can we possibly let these be destroyed?" she said.
She said will guard the country's biodiversity and protect it from "any selfish interest because it belongs to the Filipino people."
Environmental activist group, Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, vowed to "closely monitor and keep in check" the incoming administration policies "if it will truly serve the interest of the Filipino grassroots communities."