Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mining firms block Lopez appointment

By Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 14, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The mining industry has filed an opposition to the confirmation of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez due to her alleged bias against large-scale players.

“Lopez’s recent actions and pronouncements as DENR secretary show an undeniable bias against and antagonism towards large-scale mining, rendering her unfit and incapable of a responsible, fair, just and balanced implementation of the Constitution, the Philippine Mining Act and related laws and regulations, and of upholding personal interest and advocacies over public interest,” the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said in a resolution filed with the Commission on Appointments (CA).

Lopez has failed to get the nod of the CA and has just been re-appointed by President Duterte. COMP chairman Artemio Disini, legal and policy vice president Ronald Recidoro and executive vice president Nelia Halcon led the filing of the appeal.

One of the points raised by the Chamber against Lopez was her non-transmittal of final audit results on which she based her closure order on 23 mines and the suspension of five others.

“I am expecting that. Especially after the issuance of the closure order, that is to be expected,” Lopez said, reacting to COMP’s opposing her appointment.

“The companies concerned were never accorded due process. The companies concerned were vilified on national television without any prior notice of suspension or closure, nor the requisite show-cause letter,” COMP said.

“Lopez’s actions have been unfair and violative of due process and caused damage to the 28 named companies, their contractor-partners, their financial lender and investors and the capital markets here and abroad,” it added.

The COMP also pointed to Lopez’s vehement opposition to the Tampakan project covered by Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) with the government.

Furthermore, industry players said the environment chief does not have administrative competence to lead and that there is conflict of interest in her appointment, considering her family’s involvement in the energy sector.

The Chamber also slammed Lopez for depending on former Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Leo Jasareno, who has been removed from office by the President.

“Jasareno has been holding on to his space in DENR, without any official position other than consultant, and has proven to be a very loyal and dependable ally to Lopez. He was present during the Feb. 2 press conference, where MGB officials had been prevented entry for not being invited,” it added.

Moreover, stakeholders claimed that Lopez has a poor track record for leading and managing environmental and ecotourism projects, citing her alleged tendency to ignore procedural rules and disregard regulations on the handling and custody of public funds. – Rhodina Villanueva

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