Published March 15, 2017, 10:01 PM By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Amid all the issues being thrown at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) right now, the agency stood firm that it has followed due process in coming up with its recent decisions, especially with regards to the controversial mining audit it has launched last year.
DENR Undersecretary Maria Paz Luna yesterday refuted claims by representatives of the mining industry as well as legislators who claim that DENR Secretary Gina Lopez did not accord due process to mining firms when she directed the suspension and closure of several mines.
Luna branded as “baseless” the allegations specifically of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) who filed a complaint against Lopez before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday for having violated Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
She pointed out that the audits began in July 2016 and took eight months. And during that time, the affected mining firms were then given an opportunity to respond to the findings of the DENR.
“The mining companies knew of these audits; they allowed these audits. After the audits were done by the teams, the DENR sent them the audit reports. They had an opportunity to respond with their explanations on the findings of the audit,” stressed Luna, who currently heads the DENR’s legal office.
Aside from the charges Lopez is facing at the Ombudsman, the DENR chief’s decision not to adopt some of the recommendations of the audit teams has also been questioned by Legislators.
Luna explained that aside from the audits themselves, Lopez made an assessment based on information from other stakeholders.
“From those responses, the Secretary obtained additional input from mining companies and the affected communities, and came out with a decision, which is her discretion to do,” Luna said.
Meanwhile, COMP, one of the most vocal oppositors of Lopez’s reappointment as Environment Secretary, has welcomed her pending confirmation at the Commission on Appointments.
“We look forward to the resumption of hearings in May and a subsequent vote. We, however, maintain our call for the rejection of the appointment of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary-designate,” COMP said in a separate statement.
“She is unfit and unqualified for the position,” they reiterated.