‘Lopez jeopardizing confirmation by CA’

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A key leader of the Commission on Appointments warned Environment Secretary Regina Lopez yesterday that she is jeopardizing her CA confirmation by making a baseless claim that congressmen were being offered P50 million each to junk her.

“She’s making things difficult for herself. As it is, there are valid mining-related issues she has to explain. She made the situation worse,” Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, who is CA majority leader, said.

But Lopez remains hopeful that she will be confirmed by March 1 despite the alleged bribe offer. “I continue to hope that they will vote according to the highest principles of truth, service and the common good and wish them well,” Lopez said.

For his part, Albano said Lopez should prove her accusation. “Otherwise, she is merely engaging in innuendo and intrigue. I was inclined to support her until this irresponsible and unfounded statement from her,” he said.

There are 12 congressmen sitting in the CA, the body empowered by the Constitution to approve or reject Cabinet appointments. The head of the House-CA contingent is San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, whose family owns Nickel Asia Corp., one of the largest mining companies in the country.

The mining industry, through the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, has filed an opposition to the confirmation of Lopez, who has ordered the closure of 23 mines, suspension of five and the cancellation of 75 mine production-sharing agreements for allegedly destroying mountains and watersheds and polluting rivers.

Albano said there were others opposing Lopez’s confirmation.

The Zamoras operate nickel mines in the Caraga region (Surigao-Agusan provinces) and Palawan. It is not clear if they are affected by Lopez’s orders.

In an interview on Tuesday, Lopez told reporters: “I was told every congressman was offered P50 million if they voted against me. Well, people talk. Let the dice fall where it may. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I might as well do what I have to do. Politics is so messy. I know it might affect my confirmation because I know that mining funds political campaigns.”

But she said there was no evidence to implicate any congressman “in the slightest way” and that “it’s just talk.”

“I met some congressmen and know of others, and my experience has been good – in fact, very good,” Lopez said.

Lopez earlier said she was not afraid not to be confirmed by the CA, which has already bypassed her a few times. Duterte could always reappoint her if she is bypassed. She could no longer be reappointed if the CA rejects her.

However, the appointments body is not known to reject Cabinet appointments, since a rejection reflects negatively on the President. Lopez is apparently banking on Duterte’s support.

The CA committee on environment and natural resources chaired by Sen. Manny Pacquiao is scheduled to tackle Lopez’s appointment on March 1.

No jobs lost

Lopez clarified as of now, no mining operations have been formally stopped since companies can still appeal to the Office of the President.

“There are also no jobs that have been lost because mining is seasonal, and as of now, operations are at a standstill because of the rains so there are no jobs to lose,” Lopez said. – With Louise Maureen Simeon, Mary Grace Padin

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