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Monday, June 24, 2024

Palace exec deals Gina rebuke with stay order

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EXECUTIVE Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Wednesday rejected the accusation of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez that he was siding with suspended mining companies when he issued a stay order against her directive that they pay P2 million per hectare of damaged farmland before being allowed to remove their stockpiles.

“The stay order issued by the [Office of the President] is not a final order but a mere provisional measure to prevent substantial damage that may result unless extracted ores are shipped out,” Medialdea said in a text message Wednesday.

“The stay order does not contradict the President’s policy against destructive mining operations. It is provisional in character and may be set aside or modified at any time during the pendency of the appeal,” he added.

On Wednesday, Lopez accused Medialdea of going “against the very spirit of the Duterte administration, which is to help the poor” when he allowed mining companies to remove their stockpiles even before they remit P2 million per damaged hectare to a trust fund.

“The OP has not taken any legal position regarding the validity of the DENR requirement for mining companies to remit P2 million per hectare to a trust fund. This is the very issue on appeal to the OP,” Medialdea said.

“The appeals to the Office of the President go to the Executive Secretary and not directly to the President. Our office applies the rules on appeal uniformly. The decision or order appealed from is temporarily stayed, unless the case falls under any of the exceptions,” he added.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea

He added that his office is not taking any sides on the matter.

“It’s not a ruling on the merits; it merely seeks to preserve the status quo ante until it is lifted for justifiable reasons or until a decision is arrived at on the merits,” he said.

On Jan. 30, Lopez issued a memo directing the suspended mining companies to place P2 million into a trust fund for every hectare of affected lands “to further mitigate the adverse impacts of the mining operations to the environment and to the affected communities.”

“What will happen to the farmers who are not within the rehabilitation area? Who will take [good] care of them?” she asked.

Because of Medialdea’s intervention, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau cannot prevent mining companies from taking away their stockpile.

“Now, I cannot stop them. Like in Zambales, they were bringing the ore. The military and National Bureau of Investigation cannot stop them.‘You’re going against the law. Why are you taking away the stockpile when you haven’t given money for the farmers? I can stop them, but now that the Cabinet secretary put that order, I cannot do anything,” she said.

She said she did not want a fight with the miners, but wanted them to “give money to the farmers.”

President Rodrigo Duterte reappointed Lopez after she was bypassed by the Commission on Appointments three times.

In February, Lopez ordered 23 mining operations closed and five others suspended.

She said those firms are still conducting mining activities while waiting for the resolution of their appeal filed before the Office of the President.

On Wednesday, Lopez also said she was concerned that the Finance department representative, Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, was “involved with a mining company.”

“I’m a little worried that the representative of DoF who’s chairing the process in the absence of the secretary is involved with a mining company. He [Agabin] is involved with Lapu-Lapu. So you begin to wonder, where is his heart? Mining or social justice? The mandate of DENR is to make sure that the resources of the country are managed and utilized in a way that doesn’t disadvantage future generations. I have every reason to fulfill that,” Lopez said.

“I’m worried that the co-chair has appointed someone who is a mining lawyer,” she said.

The MICC agreed to a multi-stakeholder review of Lopez’s decision to shut down or suspend 28 mining companies.

Lopez, however, contended that the MICC can only recommend policy for the mining industry and is not allowed to review the operations of the mining companies, which is the role of the DENR.

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