Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Tuesday met with several farmers from Cagayan Valley to listen to their concerns related to the mining activities in the region.

At least 30 representatives from various farmers' groups in Cagayan Province, Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya were welcomed by Lopez at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

The meeting lasted for almost two hours and centered on large-scale mining, illegal mining operations, land titling issues and human rights violations.

Each of the farmers had the chance to talk to Lopez and ventilated their grievances against at least two mining companies operating in Region 2 -- OceanaGold and Golden Summit.

After the meeting, Lopez assured the farmers that the DENR will look into the issues and complaints they have against the identified mining firms.

"We will coordinate with authorities and see the rule of law. If these mining companies have violated the law, we will ensure their suspension, revocation of permits or even closure," Lopez said.

The farmers demanded for an immediate halt on the Cagayan Valley operations of OceanaGold, an Australian mining firm, whom they accused of causing water pollution and deforestation in its area of operation, harassing people, and violating human rights.

They also complained about the mining company Golden Summit, which they claimed was operating illegally in Isabela.

Lopez vowed to assist the farmers displaced by mining operations by tapping them for reforestation activities under the government's National Greening Program (NGP).

“We will put money in reforestation and agro-forestry. It is not enough that you plant trees. Ater you plant, you should take care of them. The money will go to the farmers,” added Lopez.

Nueva Vizcaya farmers asked to be included in the NGP.

The DENR chief also promised to act swiftly on the concerns raised by the farmers. As a first step, Lopez said she will discuss the case of OceanaGold with the Australian Ambassador in their upcoming meeting. ###