MANILA, Philippines — The country’s mining industry finds the reappointment of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez as unfortunate and reiterated that she remains unqualified for the post.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night issued the ad interim appointments of Lopez and three other Cabinet members who have not been confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
"It is very unfortunate. We maintain our opposition and we hope that the CA will really look into the qualifications. Lopez is really not qualified," Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) Legal and Policy vice president Ronald Recidoro told The STAR.
Among the Cabinet members, Lopez faces the strongest opposition after mining companies and mining host communities filed their position papers against the confirmation of the Environment chief.
Lopez was bypassed after two consecutive hearings last month. She is slated to face the CA committee on environment and natural resources led by Sen. Manny Pacquiao on May 2.
"I think the president just want to leave it (decision-making) to the CA," Recidoro said.
With approximately two weeks before the hearing, Recidoro said the mining industry has no plan to stage protests anew against Lopez and will instead focus on information education campaigns.
Should the CA favor Lopez and confirm her appointment, Recidoro said the industry will still have to assess its next course of actions.
"We will see. It depends as to what her actions will be afterwards, what her programs and policies on the mining industry will be," he added.
In a separate text exchange with The STAR, Lopez admitted that she knew about the reappointment two weeks prior the announcement but she remains apprehensive about the upcoming CA decision.
"I knew of my signing two weeks before and yes, I am happy and determined to make a difference. But I find politics so unpredictable so I honestly don’t know what is going to happen in the CA," Lopez said.
While Lopez is willing to work with industry, she maintained that there will still be considerations.
"I will work with the mining industry to make people's lives better. But as a matter of principle, I cannot sacrifice the well-being of our people in the altar of business profit. It’s morally wrong and it’s also against the law and the Constitution," she said.
"Let’s see where this brings us. But I will not give in when it is clear that the continued operations of the mines puts at risk peoples lives and our future. The money they make simply cannot be more important than the well-being of our people," Lopez added.
Stakeholders earlier said that the industry cannot really work together with Lopez should she be confirmed as Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary.
"The industry is in peril and will experience no growth. It’s a big disservice if we will not be able to utilize our mineral wealth," Recidoro said.
The chamber maintained that Lopez is painting the mining industry as an "environmental rapist" that just take what they want and leave nothing but suffering and destruction.
The group said Lopez has a duty to enforce the Mining Act and her non-implementation, particularly on the issuance, monitoring and regulation of contracts should be a ground for her non-confirmation.