Gina Lopez is one badass government official. Unlike most government officials, she is beholden to no one — not even her own parents who she left at 18 to do missionary work in the slums of Africa. This is presumably the reason Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte chose her to be his Environment Secretary. The Philippines, after all, is the product of decades of ravage-by-mining. Under Lopez’s watch, this has been stopped.
What is wrong with mining? It accounts for less than 3 percent of the Philippine economy. Yet it contributes an astounding cost to the environment and Filipinos who live off it. Mining, after all, is the poor man’s ticket to unsustainable wealth. Mineral riches did not lay a solid foundation for human development in the Third World’s top mineral producers. The Philippines, for its part, is one of the world’s top producers of the planet’s most precious minerals — gold, copper, and nickel amongst others. But for the toll mining has taken on its land, the Philippines has not much to show beyond the vast physical scars this industry has left.
Mining (in conjunction with direct export of its output) is a lazy industry. It is the macro equivalent of prostitution — putting your physical assets directly on the market rather than employing said physical assets to do actual work. Nickel, for example, is exported as raw ore to China where it is used in the manufacture of steel which is then sold back to the Philippines. The same can be said of other extraction industies, like logging and OFW export. They are raw product exports that degrade the Philippines’ physical and social fabric.
Mining and other extraction industries therefore do not contribute to the expansion of the Philippines’ capital base. Indeed, it actually subtracts from it — by degrading the nation’s environment and society.
The argument that Lopez’s non-negotiable closure of mines in the Philippines will cause Filipinos to lose jobs is a myopic and shortsighted argument. This, in fact, is the same moronic argument that keeps the Philippines’ infamously inefficient and filthy jeepneys on the road (and their toxic exhaust in the air).
The jeepney problem, like drugs and mining is the Philippines’ other obvious socio-economic cancer.
In light of this, it can be said that Lopez is the perfect analogue to Duterte. Duterte’s War on Drugs, flawed as it may come across to some, is the work of a long overdue kick-ass bad cop. Lopez is the badass equivalent to an industry long grown fat, complacent, and cocky whilst sitting squat over the fortunes of ordinary Filipinos and the land they work. Indeed, the only missing piece in the Get-Shit-Done squad is one more leader who will do to the jeepney industry what Duterte and Lopez are doing to the Philippines’ drugs and mining menace.
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