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Graft case eyed vs Gina

Mine owners slam Environment chief for ‘abuse of power’

THE 23 mining companies that were ordered shut down vowed Friday to seek a temporary restraining order and sue Environment Secretary Regina Lopez for graft and corruption and grave abuse of power.

The mine owners, who requested anonymity for fear of more reprisals from Lopez, said they were still trying to decide if they would file a class suit or individual complaints.

Mine owners whose operations were not ordered closed expressed support for the 75 whose mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) were terminated. They said they feared that at the rate Lopez was arbitrarily shuttering mining operations, they could suffer the same fate soon.

The miners, members of the Philippine Chamber of Mines, gathered at the Manila Golf and Country Club to assess the situation and discuss how to avert more casualties from their ranks.

“We have decided to go to court. We are filing for a TRO, prohibiting Secretary Lopez from enforcing the closure order with the end in view of fighting it out until she lifts the closure order,” said one owner of a mining company.

They said they were also filing graft and corruption charges because Lopez committed grave abuse of discretion by shutting down their operations without due process.

“She did not care about the findings of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau that we were compliant. The MGB’s audit report did not say anything about closing down the mine operations. She said she did not care that the MGB’s recommendation was in contrast with hers and that the decision rests with her. She is close-minded.

DENR Secretary Regina Lopez

She does not know what she’s doing, she does not know her job. She does not deserve to be the Environment secretary. She is not qualified to do the job,” the mine owner said.

“We likewise wrote to the President asking him to intervene and make sense of the situation considering the adverse impact of Lopez’s unilateral decision on the economy.

“We also made our position clear to the members of the powerful Commission on Appointments that we strongly oppose Lopez’s confirmation because of her penchant for doing illegal acts.

“Now, we go to court,” a mining executive told reporters.

The mining companies said that not one of the 75 MPSA holders was officially told of the violations committed that merited the shutting down of operations.

Another mine owner said that on Feb, 13, the MGB issued a certification that they were being given the go-signal to proceed with their exploration as their MPSA was valid.

“At 10 a.m. the following day, Feb. 14, on Valentine’s Day, we heard the news that our company was among those she issued a closure order,” the mining company official said. “Where is she basing her decision? She could not show us any audit report.”

The mine owners explained that the government could not have had signed the MPSA deal with them had they not complied with the strict requirements to operate a mine.

Yet Lopez, without any legal basis, arbitrarily issued closure orders left and right without giving the mining companies the chance to contest the alleged violations they have committed, they said.

Miners said the entire country has 30 million hectares of land and some nine million hectares were identified to be rich in mineral ores.

“Of the nine million hectares, only 300,000 hectares are now being mined,” they said.

“But Lopez is making it appear that we are wreaking havoc on the environment. She makes it her advocacy to make us appear as monsters,” a mine owner said.

Lopez was misleading the public by displaying an inch-thick document that purportedly contained the violations committed by the mining companies every time she held a press conference.

“Those documents that she was displaying on television during her press conferences contained nothing but a bluff. It was pure bluff. We never got those documents. So up until now, we don’t know what she was talking about. We were never furnished with those documents,” one mining company executive said.

One of the miners also dared Lopez to name names and make public the identity of those who purportedly bribed her to withdraw her closure order.

“We challenge her to identify those who tried to bribe her. We also dare her to file bribery charges against them. We now question Gina Lopez’s motives in putting all of us in a bad light. It is futile to talk to her. She never listens to us. So we decided to go to court. Maybe that way, she would finally tell us the truth about the violations she said we have purportedly committed. All we wanted from her is to be fair because she is not hurting us but the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs and the government and the economy,” they said.

The mining companies will hold a press conference on Monday at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City to make public the result of the chamber’s compilation of data, disputing Lopez’s claim that the watershed areas had been destroyed by the mining companies.

Topics: Secretary Regina Lopez , Mining owners , Philippine Chamber of Mines , Mines and Geosciences Bureau , DENR
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