FOR making a “very bad decision” on mining, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez will not hurdle confirmation of the powerful Commission on Appointments, lawmakers said Thursday.
“Secretary Lopez’s confirmation is ruled out because she made a very bad decision by closing down 75 mining firms without due process,” said Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Mangaoang, who filed a resolution seeking to probe her closure orders.
Mangaoang and Coop-Natcco Rep. Anthony Bravo said Lopez’s actions were wreaking havoc on the economy.
A CA member who requested anonymity, confirmed that several opposition letters had been submitted to the confirmation body questioning Lopez’s qualifications to head the environment agency.
The lawmaker said the CA will convene on Wednesday next week (Feb. 22) to deliberate on Lopez’s fate as DENR secretary.
“There is strong opposition to Secretary Lopez’s confirmation following her recent decisions to cancel the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement of 75 mining companies that displaced 1.2 million mine workers nationwide,” the CA member said. “We have to hear all sides, including the sentiments of the stakeholders that were adversely affected by Lopez’s decision.”
Mangaoang, a geologist, said the congressional hearing on Lopez’s recent decisions would be held in the first week of March.
He said he could understand the sentiments of the stakeholders and the CA members who believed Lopez made her decision with no legal or scientific basis.
“As a geologist, I know for a fact that when an area is highly mineralized, no trees will grow and therefore there is no watershed in the mining reservation areas because the water produced from these areas are highly toxic and thus unfit for drinking,” Mangaoang said.
Mangaoang, who previously worked in several mining companies in the North, Visayas and Mindanao before he was elected congressman, explained that the seas become red when it rained in Surigao provinces because the soil in those mountains are red due to the presence of mineral ores like nickel.
“That is the reason why Secretary Lopez, up to now, refuses to make public the findings of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources because it will reveal the truth that most of these mining companies were compliant and her theory of the red sea because the mountains are denuded was without a scientific basis,” Mangaoang said.
Lopez, he said, has committed a “huge blunder.”
“By seeing the seas becoming red after it rained, Secretary Lopez made a decision based on a knee-jerk reaction. She has committed a huge blunder. She made a very bad decision that would make the CA members think twice in confirming her,” Mangaoang said.
“Look, the government is not crazy to just rescind any contract. In fact, she is giving the President and the country a bad name before the international community because foreign investors now would be apprehensive in putting up businesses here as any government official would just rescind the contract based on a knee-jerk reaction,” Mangaoang said.
Mangaoang said Lopez would be hard put in defending herself before the CA and Congress because she could not justify her actions.
“My office has received so many complaints that Lopez did not even bother to inform the mining companies of the violations they had purportedly committed and thus could not institute remedial measures or rectify the errors committed,” he told the Manila Standard. “She simply ordered them shut down.”
This, Mangaoang said, prompted him to file the resolution seeking a congressional probe. The investigation will be conducted jointly by the House committees on good government and natural resources, chaired by Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, respectively.
Mangaoang, vice chairman of the Zarate panel, said apart from Lopez, former Environment undersecretary and chief of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Leo Jasareno, who headed the audit team, will aslo be called.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers said Jasareno had a lot of explaining to do as to what led Lopez to believe that the mining firms were destroying the environment.
“When Secretary Lopez was appointed as DENR chief, she ordered the audit of all mining firms nationwide. Unfortunately, despite his dismissal, Jasareno was retained as the head of the audit team,” Barbers said.
According to Barbers, the so-called environmental violations, if true, could be the result of years of alleged neglect or tolerance of former Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and the Jasareno-led MGB.
Told that Lopez claimed she had the backing of President Rodrigo Duterte, Mangaoang had this to say: “President Duterte announced that he would hire members of his Cabinet that would push for his agenda and one of these is to provide jobs to the Filipino people. In less than a year in office, Lopez did not create jobs but actually made 1.2 million workers lose their jobs.”
“Secretary Lopez does not know what she’s doing. And she cannot empathize with those millions of families that will go hungry because she does not know what it’s like to be poor. As a geologist, I’ve seen these workers finding hope for their families and children because of their jobs and now their job security had been threatened,” Mangaoang said.
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