A MINING company on Wednesday filed a graft complaint against outgoing Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, whose appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments.
In a complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, Citinickel Mines Development Corp. accused Lopez of trying to extort P130 million for the benefit of a non-government organization she controls.
CMDC officials alleged that Lopez used her position to impose additional requirements on them after she froze their ore shipments.
These requirements, CMDC argued, were not only unreasonable, but unlawful as well since they do not have any legal basis and go beyond the mandate of the DENR.
Charges of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and Red Tape Act of 2007, and illegal exaction have been filed against Lopez before the Ombudsman.
Through its legal counsel Lorna Kapunan, CMDC said Lopez not only disregarded their duly-entered 25-year mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) with the DENR when she ordered their suspension, she also threw in hindrances that effectively scuttled the MPSA.
“Secretary Lopez is not only unaware of the limits of [her] office; she likewise displays a propensity to be a tyrant that cannot be reasoned out with. She imposes restrictions without regards to the law and the property rights of the public which she serves,” the complaint said.
At a news conference, Kapunan said when Lopez ordered the suspension of CMDC in July 2016, the mining firm filed for a mineral ore export permit with the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau in a bid to remove and transport its stockpile of ores from the area “so as not to endanger the environment.”
The MGB granted CMDC’s permit in November 2016, but Lopez issued a memorandum last Jan. 30 and imposed a P2-million payment into a trust fund per hectare of disturbed land.
“In this case, it cannot be denied that Secretary Lopez’s actions against CMDC are characterized by grave misconduct and negligence, owing to a blind disregard for existing rules just so she can satisfy her pre-existing bias against the mining industry. Secretary Lopez has failed to the utmost degree to properly balance the interests of the interested parties and stubbornly disregard CMDC’s right to due process,” the complaint read.
Kapunan said Lopez’s new trust fund is “superfluous” because the mining firm is already covered by two trust funds set under the Mining Act.
Things became worse when Lopez, through Undersecretary Philip Camara, imposed another requirement for the mineral ore export permit, a P130-million performance bond, Kapunan added.
The DENR directed the company to deposit the money to account of the Espanola Community Administration Services Inc. for the financing of the green economy transitioning area development plan and program for the towns of Narra and Espanola in Palawan, the complaint stated.
“She exceeds the powers vested in her office by arbitrarily imposing new restrictions in the mining industry, which, to repeat is not found under existing laws,” Kapunan said.