Duterte names spox, chief legal counsel; Gina Lopez to head DENR

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Wednesday, 22 June 2016 - Last Updated on February 5, 2017

Environment advocate Gina Lopez accepted on Tuesday, incoming President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to lead the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) a day after her courtesy call with Duterte in Davao City.

“After much introspection, I decided to accept it (environment portfolio). Let’s see what happens,” Lopez told the media at the sidelines of an awards event in Quezon City.

Lopez is the managing director of the ABS-CBN Lingkod Bayan Foundation and chairperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) since 2010.

She is noted for her active participation in the campaign against mining, particularly in Palawan and other eco-tourism sites. She had rallied hundreds of supporters to push the Save Palawan Movement.

Environmental groups Kalikasan People’s Network and Coalition of Clean Air Advocates of the Philippines have hailed Lopez as the right choice for the DENR top post.

But some are expressing reservations over her family’s business interests and “environmentally destructive projects” which include the forest-clearing in Mt. Talinis by the Lopez-led Energy Development Corporation.

Duterte had previously thought of offering the DENR to the progressive left led by the Communist Party of the Philippines but had since changed his mind due to the sensitive issue on mining.

Last week, the incoming President appointed his personal lawyer Salvador Panelo as

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chief presidential legal counsel and Ernesto Abella as spokesperson.

Panelo’s designation as Palace spokesperson is temporary though, according to incoming Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

Panelo, who was known for being the counsel of the

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Ampatuan clan in the murder of journalists and members of the Mangudadatu family, was previously rumored to be Duterte’s spokesperson.

Abella, an educator and columnist, founded The Jesus Fellowship Inc. and Hope of Asia Inc. He was an instructor at Ateneo de Davao College.

“What I’d like to do is to have the office of the spokesman try to articulate as carefully and as clearly as possible the true intentions of the President,” he said in a video released to the media.

Abella credits Duterte, who was Davao City mayor at that time, for his release in 1996 from ethnic bandits who claimed to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

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