Would banning mining jeopardize our quality of life?


Anti-mining groups proliferate these days. They want to ban mining because it is anti-environment.  Do they really mean what they say?

Minerals and metals have been part of our way of life for thousands of years. Unless we go back to the Stone Age. Recall the Iron, Copper and Bronze Ages. Disclosure:  I studied geology, mining and metallurgy courses at UP Diliman.


Let’s start with our homes.  The refrigerator is made of steel.  Stainless steel is made from iron, nickel and chromium.  The tin cans for canned goods are made from tin and steel. The aluminum cans came from mined alumina.  The glass we use is from silica sands.

And the house we live in is made from cement from limestone, steel bars and nails. And how will electrical appliances, like TV  and air-conditioners, work without copper wires?


What are cars, ships, railways and planes made of? Cars cannot run without steel body, copper wirings, and batteries. Ship hulls are made of iron and steel. Add to that the cast-iron engines. Most airplanes are made out of aluminum, a lightweight metal. The Ford Tri-Motor, the first passenger plane from 1928, was made out of aluminum.


The most extensively used material in transmission line is aluminum. Glass optical fibers are made from silica. An optical fiber is a single, hair-fine filament drawn from molten silica glass. These fibers are replacing metal wire as the transmission medium in high-speed, high-capacity communications systems.


Some 32 countries use nuclear energy that uses uranium.  Thirteen countries rely on nuclear energy for at least 30 percent of power generation.

What happens if coal mining is stopped now?  Many power plants will cease operation. Power costs will rise. The Philippine economic growth will definitely slow down.


Diamonds are mined in Botswana, Russia and South Africa. Gold from many countries, including China, Australia, and Russia. Silver from Mexico, Peru, China and Chile. Emeralds and rubies are mined, too. Catholic churches use silver chalices.

We cannot do away with minerals and metals.  Economics is important. But our way of life is at stake if mining is banned. In any case, mining comprised only 0.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) or P112 billion in 2016. Contrary to claims, it is not small.  Palay had P289 billion of GDP, coconut, P93 billion and corn, P73 billion.  Moreover, the beverage industry contributed P127 billion, clothing and apparel P70 billion, and transport equipment, P48 billion (Source: Philippine Statistics Authority).



Where do we go from here?

Mining per se is not bad. Best practices in mining can be learned from Canada, Australia and other places.

Mining companies must behave according to rules. The Australian Center of Sustainable Mining Practices (ACSMP) notes that sustainable mining practices embed the principles of sustainable development into a mining and minerals context.

“At its core is the belief that through the responsible development of the world’s mineral resources, the global population will be able to access the mineral resources they demand for both a higher standard of living and better access to energy. It is an important tool in alleviating poverty. Companies that exhibit sustainable mining practices demonstrate the five pillars:  Leading environmental practices, community engagement and support, economic development, safety excellence and optimum resource utilization.” (ACSMP).

Have I visited mines? Yes. I visited Philex Mines in Benguet, Semirara Mine in Caluya, Antique, and TVI Mining in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. They are responsible miners.

Am I pro-mining? You bet. And pro-development.


Cement firms spared from mining regulation

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The Mines and Geosciences Bureau issued a circular removing the need for cement manufacturers and holders of quarry and industrial sand and gravel permits to secure a mineral processing permit.

MGB said the move was in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier pronouncement to lessen red tape and redundant requirements.

MPP is a permit granted to a qualified person for mineral processing.  Mineral processing means the milling, beneficiation, leaching, smelting, cyanidation, calcination or upgrading of ores, minerals, rocks, mill tailings, mine waste and/or other metallurgical by-products or by similar means to convert the same into marketable products.

MGB Memorandum Circular No. 2017-02 issued on Feb. 6, 2017 by Environment Undersecretary and concurrent MGB director Mario Luis Jacinto states that “contractors who are engaged in cement manufacturing and holders of quarry and industrial sand and gravel [ISG] permits are not required to secure MPP.”

Dodging external, internal bullets for PH

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In spite of the country’s recent growth spurt, developments here and abroad may have put at risk an investment environment that took decades in the making. Many experts believe that the Philippines is facing uncertain times amid concerns over the sanctity of mining contracts, growing protectionism among global trade leaders, local political noise created by a firebrand president, and many more.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez and Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Concepcion III discussed with the Inquirer earlier this month some of the most pressing issues being faced by the trade department.

President Duterte’s economic managers said the country’s growth momentum remained, but more still needed to be done.

Here are some excerpts from the discussion.

Lopez: As the government, the keyword [we work around with] is “magbigay (give).” We have to give opportunities … the education and the training. You have to have that and the know-how.

Concepcion: To create businesses, you have to get these businessmen confident to start putting up a plant, expand their businesses.

The mining controversy

Q: What are we facing assuming Environment Secretary Gina Lopez proceeds with her cancellation and suspension orders against mining firms without due process?

Lopez: That would boil down to court cases everywhere, or an investment dispute settlement. I don’t want to think about that [since it has not happened yet].

The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) will have to disagree with that. We all want the government to be protected, not to be sued.

We are talking about contracts. Those are meant to be honored. For us in the MICC, due process should prevail.

The President’s heart is in protecting the environment, that’s why he supports Gina. [But] you have to balance being a manager and being a secretary. You have to look at all of the stakeholders.

Concepcion: I know her. She is really passionate. There is no issue about it, but sometimes your passion and your advocacy should not overlap with your work because there are other people.

On how the mining controversy may affect the respect for contracts:

Lopez: If you audit [contracts] and you see deficiencies, give [the companies] time to cure. That’s part of due process. If you’re unable to correct the [deficiencies], then you don’t deserve to operate that way, so you really have to comply.

But there’s that period to cure … You cannot just cancel a contract that has been signed. They put billions there to develop it.

Concepcion: [Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who co-chairs MICC] told me the contracts have to be respected. If there are offenses, the penalty should be commensurate to the offense. In other words, if you committed a small offense, you cannot be given a big penalty, it should be commensurate. That’s the principle he has. The government has to respect the contacts.

Protectionism trend

Lopez: Protectionism is really against the tried and tested principles of globalization already adopted by almost everyone, especially if you are the leading economy and one of the leading economies in the world. [The US has been] at the forefront of globalization.

It’s so hard to think that [the US] would be the one to backtrack.

This [protection] would worry us, but it’s not yet there. The actual policies have not yet been issued, that’s why we’re assuming a more balanced view that the protectionist policies would not be recklessly issued in the end.

Concepcion: In the last Asean-European conference, I was explaining that that is the problem when a country [fails to become] competitive anymore.

[A country is] like a corporation. If I’m so big and I pay my people the high salary, out comes a company that is small, wages are under the radar. The Philippine model is like the China model. Our wages are more affordable.

America cannot afford to pay $500 to a call center operator, because the cost structure is very high, but that is the cost of being the Superman of the world.

In the cost structure of maintaining an army and policing the world, [the expectation of] being a superpower is very high, so eventually you would lose out against countries in the Asean who are hungry for market share. We are all fighting for market share.

America is going to innovation, technology. They should continue doing that. [They should] leave the labor to countries like ourselves because they can’t beat us anymore because of our cost structure.

On local manufacturing

Lopez: Manufacturing has been revived. [It’s now] at an 8 percent growth. It used to be a 2 to 3 percent year-on-year. It’s not a zero sum game [anymore]. Even services is growing by 8 percent. All sectors are growing.

The agriculture sector was affected by a storm, so it’s minus one. But actually, it already turned positive in the last two quarters last year.

Auto excise tax

Q: The car industry wants to lower the rates. What’s your comment on this?

Lopez: If you would ask them, of course they would want lower rates. But we also have to balance.

A 2-percent net increase, to me, is not bad at all. It won’t kill the heart of the program.

Q: It’s no longer open for negotiation?

Lopez: The only difference is that the government wants a 4-percent increase, while the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (Campi) wanted 3 percent. The difference is very minimal. It should no longer derail the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program.

Q: How about the other recommendations? Like the request to expand the coverage from four tiers to seven.

Lopez: That’s already immaterial.

Concepcion: [We must look] at the overall good. The income tax would go down to 25 percent.

The terrorists are among us


tony-katigbakIt would seem that President Duterte is in full support of his Environment Secretary Gina Lopez despite the loud outcry of the mining sector. I honestly believe that they also deserve their day in court and to be able to voice out their concerns. It’s quite sad that the industry has been vilified so badly when it may only a couple of bad apples in the barrel that should the reason for concern.

As I have mentioned in previous columns, I believe in responsible mining and what it does for the country for both resources and employment. I have seen it firsthand and I know a lot of the major players are doing their part in environmental protection and awareness all while responsibly handling their operations. I don’t think everyone should be made to suffer just because of a few mistakes – which can easily be remedied and removed.

I believe that government should think long and hard before pushing through with banning mining in the country. A compromise can definitely be reached through open dialogue and communication. This is something that is important so that both sides of the story can be heard and both sets of concerns can be put on the table. At the end of the day, nothing is ever one sided. It’s possible to come up with a solution that is win-win.

Scam in the offing…


_juradoI heard that the President said he would not hesitate to fire his own appointees if they are reported to be engaged in corruption. He did this already with two of his fraternity brothers at the Immigration Bureau who were caught on camera receiving money. He also did it with his former campaign spokesman.

I cheered him for showing political will. People will then believe he is serious about his war on corruption.

But what is happening in the case of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez, who had been bypassed by the Commission on Appointments? Mr. Duterte has supported her in her anti-mining advocacy. Lopez has shown incompetence and lack of knowledge on due process and the rule of law.

She is also reportedly involved in graft and corruption.

Why the President is soft on Lopez puzzles me. Is it because Lopez is an heiress of the influential and powerful media outlet, ABS-CBN?

The CA considers Lopez bypassed for a third time, hence considered rejected. It appears though that Mr. Duterte is keen on reappointing her. What gives?

Then, there’s another appointee, movie actor Cesar Montano, who is being charged with anomalies as head of the Tourism Promotions Board. The President supports him.

So is he or is he not serious in the fight against corruption? Again, I would like to be proven wrong.

I think it is significant that Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez said it would take five years for the government to recover its revenue shortfall after Lopez, ordered the closure of 23 mining firms and suspension of five more, and canceled 75 mineral production sharing agreements.

She did all these without due process. She violated the sanctity of contracts.

Dominguez said the government collected P20.6 billion in taxes from mining in 2012; P24.4 billion in 2013; P32.7 billion in 2014; and P29.57 billion in 2015. Many communities are 90 percent dependent on mining for revenues and 200,000 lost on direct hiring making a total of 1.2 million in both direct and induced jobs. Note that Dominguez and Lopez are co-chairs of the Philippine Mining Coordinating Council.

This is the reason I am confused about Duterte’s stand on Lopez. And to think he considers a total mining ban!

Without mining, what would the President use to make phone calls, eat, tell time, travel? What would Lopez use as her ornaments? What gadgets could she use?

34 NGOs dump Gina


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan—A network of 34 environmental nongovernment organizations has withdrawn its support for the confirmation of Regina Lopez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, an official of the group said Sunday.

Lawyer Robert Chan, executive director of the Palawan NGO Network Inc., said they decided to withdraw their support for Lopez after she entered into an agreement with the provincial government to co-manage certain areas in Palawan.

The co-management agreement covers around 731,710 hectares of forest lands, protected areas, mangrove forest and coastal areas, and around 9,800 square-kilometers of coral reefs, Chan said in a press statement.

PNNI and other Palawan-based NGOs criticized the agreement as “lacking scientific basis and public consultation.” They and other non-profit groups also said the agreement “deprived civil society organizations of proper representation in its technical working group.”

“Secretary Lopez’s allies sought our endorsement for her confirmation but we could not give it because of this agreement,” Chan said in Filipino.


“Yung mga kaalyado ni Secretary Gina ay kumuha ng endorsement ng Palawan NGO Network Inc.

Chan said his organization sent a letter to Lopez on Feb. 27 urging her to revoke the agreement.

Most of the group’s members agreed to withdraw their support for Lopez in a recently held general assembly.

Chan said his organization has sent a letter to Lopez last Feb. 27 urging her to revoke her decision on the MoA. Majority of the group’s members have agreed to withdraw their support to Lopez in a recently-held board and general assembly meeting of its members.

“People only see Lopez as an anti-mining crusader, when in fact, that is only one of the many tasks of a DENR chief. There are other sectors of the environment to be considered, such as forestry and fishery, as well as climate change,” he said.

“What we see is she’s good in handling mining issues, but it’s the DENR, it’s not just a Department of Mining,” he added.

The co-management agreement is opposed by 340 indigenous people in Brooke’s Point, who say the project will intrude on their ancestral domain.

Critics also question the program’s proposal to plant bamboo and napier grass as livestock feed as this would affect the area’s biodiversity.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Sunday scored Lopez for failing to effectively address the opposing arguments against her confirmation and said she would be bypassed—her third time.

“She till has a lot of learning to do… She had a hard time answering the issues [raised by] the [those who oppose her],” Barbers said.

Earlier, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III and A-Teacher Rep. Juliet Cortuna, both CA members, said Lopez may need a reappointment from President Rodrigo Duterte because she is deemed to be bypassed.

Under the CA’s new “three-strike” rule approved last week, the body must decide on an appointee’s fitness for the post if he or she has been bypassed thrice.

Over the weekend, the Manila Mining Corp. chided Lopez for making false statements about their operations.

“While under oath, Lopez showed pictures of open pits of Manila Mining Corp. [MMC] in Placer, Surigao del Norte which she said she took herself,” MMC said in a statement.

It then quoted Lopez as stating: “You know the price of gold went down so they suspended it but they haven’t been taking care of it and they don’t even have the funds there to rehab it and my staff tells me that it is not acidic but it’s full of copper. Nevertheless, it’s a danger to the area.”

The company said Lopez made a defamatory statement at a public forum in Butuan City where she described the water in its pits as acid, even though tests by the Environmental Management Bureau showed that it and the sea water adjoining the mine site had pH levels within the DENR standards.

“It is not true that MMC has not been taking care of its open pits. We properly maintain our facilities on site to ensure that they do not harm the environment. Our compliance with environmental regulations are confirmed by the quarterly monitoring made by the duly-constituted Multi-partite Monitoring Team [MMT], the last of which was in November 2016.”

The company also said her claim that MMC had no fund for the pit’s rehabilitation was false.

“MMC has had mine rehabilitation funds since 1998 on deposit with a government bank. Those accounts are subject to quarterly monitoring by the MMT and found sufficient and in compliance with MMC’s MGB-approved Care and Maintenance Program. The last such monitoring was made on March 2-3, 2017,” the company said.

“The open pits referred to by Lopez contain ore and are programmed for mining prior to rehabilitation. Adjacent areas, as the pictures indicate, are heavily forested and rehabilitated,” the company said. With Rio N. Araja


10 provinces with no mines are the poorest in PH


None of the country’s 10 poorest provinces hosts a mine, according to data from the government statistics office.

Based on the 2015 first semester poverty incidence report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the 10 poorest provinces were identified as Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Sarangani, Bukidnon, Siquijor, Northern Samar, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga del Norte and Agusan del Sur.

These provinces that do not host a mine yet recorded the highest poverty incidence rate of 70.2 percent for Lanao del Sur, 61.8 percent for Sulu and 54.5 percent for Saranggani, said Chito Gozar, OceanaGold’s senior vice president for communications and external affairs, citing the PSA data.

The PSA report thus belied Environment Secretary Regina Lopez’s claim “the poorest areas in the Philippines are mining areas.”

“Mining companies do not cause suffering in areas where they operate. The companies have been a longtime partner of the government in delivering social services, ” Gozar said.

On the other hand, the mining provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet in the Cordillera Administrative Region posted a low poverty incidence of 15.8 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively. The two provinces ranked 64th and 79th among the 85 provinces included on the list of poverty incidence among families released by PSA.

“Studies do not support the contention that mining increases poverty incidence in the area where it operates. On the contrary, mining spikes the household income in mine sites,” Gozar said.

Barangay Didipio in Nueva Vizcaya is host to OceanaGold’s Didipio Mines.

Results of the 2015 socioeconomic assessment conducted by UPLB Foundation covering the Didipio Mines indicate a significant increase in the mean household income in the host and neighboring communities.

Didipio registered a mean household income of P19,380 which is above the national average income of P17,166 and the national poverty threshold of P18,935.

Previously, farming was its primary source of income. Didipio residents shifted to being wage earners (83 percent).

Manila Mining hits Lopez for ‘falsehood’


MANILA MINING Corp. (MMC) denied Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez’s accusations that the listed company has no mine rehabilitation funds, saying this is “an assertion of falsehood.”


“The statement made by Sec. Lopez under oath that MMC ‘has no fund to rehab’ is an assertion of falsehood. MMC has had mine rehabilitation funds since 1998 on deposit with a government bank,” the company said in a statement over the weekend.

During her Commission on Appointment hearing on March 8, Ms. Lopez alleged MMC had violated environmental laws for failing to deposit the mandated funds to rehabilitate its open pit mine in Placer, Surigao del Norte.

MMC said the mine rehabilitation accounts, which are monitored by the Multi-partite Monitory Team every quarter, have been found “sufficient” and “in compliance” with the company’s Care and Maintenance Program. The accounts were last monitored on March 2 and 3.

The listed miner also denied Ms. Lopez’s accusations it has not been taking care of its open pits. It noted the Caraga regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) conducted an investigation on MMC’s mine site last Feb. 27, which includes water sampling.

“The EMB’s Investigation Report showed that the water in the pits and the sea water adjoining the mine site had pH levels within DENR standards… We properly maintain our facilities on site to ensure that they do not harm the environment,” it said.

MMC also clarified that open pits do contain ore and are meant for mining prior rehabilitation efforts mandated pursuant to the Mining Act of 1995. — Janina C. Lim

CA member tells Gina Lopez: ‘The law is the law’



While saying that she admired the passion of Gina Lopez to protect the environment from destructive mining, a member of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) has called on the Environment Secretary to respect the law in enforcing her anti-mining policies.

Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez Sato on Sunday reminded presidential appointees, as alter-ego of President Rodrigo Duterte, to ensure that “they know the laws which they swore to uphold and enforce by heart.” This was after the CA committee on environment terminated its public hearing on Lopez’s appointment and deemed her bypassed.

READ: Gina Lopez’ appointment deemed bypassed—Lacson

“I admire her passion, but the law is the law.  It may be harsh, it may be flawed, but that is the law.  I am very much willing to hear from her what needs to be done and I will file a bill in the House of Representatives to make that happen,” Sato said in a statement.

“But it has to be done within the purview of the law. Any gaps in the law must be dealt with by amending the law or enactment of another law… The law is there for a reason and if she thinks the law should be amended, then by all means – but let Congress do it first,” she added.

The CA committee was expected to come up with a decision on Lopez’s ad interim appointment after an executive session on Tuesday. Lopez would not be able to attend the next hearing before Congress takes a break this week as she just left the country for a personal trip.

READ: Gina Lopez faces CA with new allegations

Lopez last month ordered the closure of 23 mines and canceled 75 mineral production sharing agreements for supposedly ruining watershed areas. She said all open-pit mining operations in the country were being done in a watershed.

But Sato said Lopez’s definition of watershed was not clearly stated in the law.

READ: Mining firms: Lopez has no power to declare an area is watershed

The Revised Forestry Code defines a watershed as a “land area drained by a stream or fixed body of water and its tributaries having a common outlet for surface runoff.” The DENR’s River Basin Control Office lists 142 “critical watersheds” in the country, which were defined as drainage area of a river system which supports existing and proposed hydro-electric power, irrigation works or domestic water facilities that need immediate protection or rehabilitation.

In a speech in Baguio City, President Duterte on Saturday reiterated his support to Lopez’s anti-mining stance, saying the country “can live without” billions in profit from the mining industry.

READ: Lopez: Duterte is ‘the real thing;’ he ‘deeeeeply cares’ for PH

“I have to support Lopez and I cannot help you,” Duterte said. “Let me just add that all you contribute to the country is about 70 billion in taxes. We can live without it… I’ll get the 70 billion from somewhere else and preserve the environment.”

“If you have something against Gina Lopez, kindly rethink. Look at her passion… She’s not interested in their money and she is just doing it like what a Cabinet member should do,” he added./rga

CA: Gina acting ‘above the law’

Spurned for imposing own rules


MEMBERS of the Commission on Appointments on Thursday rebuffed Environment Secretary Lopez for acting as if she were above the law by imposing new standards and changing the rules midstream when she closed 23 mine sites and canceled 75 mineral production sharing agreements.

Those who opposed Lopez’s confirmation also complained that Lopez not only changed the rules, but also her mind when she opposed a review of her closure orders shortly after signing the order to push through with it.

Those who opposed her confirmation also said Lopez showed her bias against mining and failed to transcend her advocacy.

At her confirmation hearing Thursday, Lopez and CA members debated on the definition of a watershed.

She also said 13 large-scale mining companies passed her audit even though they sat on a watershed. The companies practice “responsible mining,” Lopez said.

The lawmakers also rebuked Lopez for claiming that provinces that were hosts to mining companies were among the poorest of the poor.

Presiding over Day 2 of the confirmation hearing, Senator Manny Pacquiao, chairman of the CA committee on environment, chided Lopez for imposing her “personal standards” to get her way than following the law.

“You imposed your own personal standards. You cannot do that,” Pacquiao told Lopez.

To justify her actions, lawmakers said, Lopez threw out existing standards and imposed her own, based on “social and economic justice.”

This prompted Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato to tell her: “You cannot go outside the parameters of the law. You cannot be above the law.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson agreed with Sato.

“That’s where the conflict starts. The mining companies complied with the highest standards but you changed the rules midstream that became subjective and arbitrary. You changed the policy midstream. They were really surprised because they were ISO 14001 compliant but you changed the standards.”

“If you want to add new standards to the existing requirements, do it the legal and proper way,” Sato cautioned Lopez.

“You cannot just declare, ‘This is what I want.’ You cannot do that,” said Sato, who asked Lopez if she meant to revoke the administrative order issued by former Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, requiring that mining companies be ISO-certified.


ROLLING DEFENSE. Members of the powerful Commission on Appointments rebuff Thursday Environment Secretary-designate Gina Lopez for acting ‘above the law’ by imposing new standards and changing the rules midstream at the continuation of deliberations for her confirmation by the CA. Ey Acasio

But Lopez refused to be swayed.

“This is my stand. You cannot build an economy on suffering. We have to consider social and economic justice where we build an economy that benefits everyone, for the common good, not to make farmers and fishermen suffer. I have moved the DENR from a regulatory agency to a developmental one,” Lopez said.

She said the ISO 14001 was a technical requirement brought about by a private initiative.

When Sato asked Lopez to define ISO 14001, however, she could not and even referred to it as “ISO 41” until a consultant corrected her.

Jo Cristine Li, a young mining engineer, brought out a recorded pronouncement previously made by Lopez when she denied making ISO 14001 a requirement to make the mining firms compliant.

Li let the CA listen to the recorded statement of Lopez, who insisted the ISO certificate did not cover her policy of social and economic justice.

“I am not violating the law. It is in the law. Social and economic justice is mandated by the Constitution, the Mining Act, the Clean Air Act, among other laws. I am just enforcing the law. ISO 14001 is just a technical thing that is a private initiative,” Lopez said.

Paquiao said those who vehemently opposed her confirmation said she did not observe due process.

“I did observe due process and my actions were all based on the laws every step of the way,” Lopez shot back.

A Teachers Rep. Julieta Cortuna said Lopez may have been “blinded” by her advisers and the CA members now doubt her competence considering the huge number of sectors strongly opposing her confirmation.

Cortuna also corrected Lopez, who insisted that her trusted adviser and consultant Leo Jasareno, former Mines and Geosciences Bureau chief, had not approved or recommended a single MPSA during his stint.

Lopez, who promoted Jasareno as senior undersecretary, described him as “honest, loyal, not corrupt and who cares a lot about the environment.”

“There is not a shred of evidence of corruption against Leo [Jasareno]. He is an honest guy and I trust him,” Lopez insisted.

Lopez defended Jasareno after a group of mining engineers questioned Lopez’s decision to make Jasareno head the audit team when it was during his stint that the MPSA had been granted the mining companies.

But Lopez denied this as well, saying not one MPSA was signed by Jasareno, a claim that Cortuna disputed, citing official records.

Lopez later apologized to the confirmation body for her lack of knowledge about the signatories to the MPSA.

Ronaldo Recidoro, official of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, questioned Lopez’s backing out of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, which she co-chairs with Finance Secretary Ceasar Dominguez.

At first she signed the order calling for a review of her closure orders, then said the MICC could only review policies, not DENR orders.

She said she had written a memorandum to President Rodrigo Duterte protesting the allocation of P50 million to review her closure orders.

“I told the President in a memo that I personally handed to him that we could use the P50 million somewhere else, for the better, not for the review. We have a game plan. We could use the money, instead in making plans on how to find jobs for our mine workers, who would be displaced,” Lopez said.

Lopez appealed to the CA to give her two more years to prove that she can make the closed mining sites “beautiful, beautiful,” and alleviate the mine workers and communities from poverty.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri contested Lopez’s assertion that the provinces that were hosts to the mining sites were among the poorest of the poor.

“Official records from the Philippine Statistics Office, a government agency, show that not one of the provinces, where mining was present, is in the top 10, not even in the top 20 of the poorest provinces,” Zubiri said.

“My province, Bukidnon, which did not have mining, was among the top 20,” Zubiri said. “So where did you get your data, Madame Secretary?”

Lopez said her statistics were provided to her by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, based on the list of recipients of the 4Ps.

Several members of the tribal groups and indigenous people, who flew from as far as Surigao del Sur, Caraga, Agusan and Zambales, testified that their lives were uplifted as a result of mining.

They said they were now worried about their children, who were sent to school by the mining companies as their scholars.

“May we ask Secretary Lopez as to how she would sustain our needs because the mining companies are providing us with the annual royalty fees by the millions that we use for our developmental projects as a community. The mining companies also provided us with hospitals, schools and livelihood programs, when government for the longest time had not done for us. We now have katutubo who are educated,” said the tribal chief in Filipino and English.

Pacquiao said Lopez would be bypassed as she is leaving for abroad Friday for a vacation.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, said she could suffer the fate of Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., who was rejected by the CA earlier this week.

During the hearing, Lacson told Lopez her responses to issues raised by CA members were “not enough” to convince the body just yet to vote in favor of her nomination.

“I want to be candid as I think the responses made were not enough to convince at least 13 [members]. I want to help you get past this confirmation hearing,” said Lacson.

Pacquiao’s committee had heard the 23 oppositors against the appointment of Lopez during the two hearings which started Wednesday. It will hold on Tuesday, March 14, a caucus, to discuss Lopez’s nomination as DENR chief. Her appointment will be considered bypassed if the CA fails to come up with a decision before Congress adjourns session on March 18 for the Lenten recess.

At Thursday’s hearing, Lopez again faced her oppositors who called for her rejection as she was “unfit and unqualified” for the job.

The oppositors also cited her lack of technical and scientific knowledge, and her understanding of the mining production sharing agreements (MPSA) or exploration contracts.

They also denounced her blatant disregard for due process for ordering the shutdown of mining companies and cancellation of 75 MPSA, causing a shakeup in the multi-billion-peso industry.

Asked what her motivation was in closing the mining operations and cancellation of MPSs,, Lopez repeatedly said that it was based on social justice and her understanding.

Senator Miguel Zubiri contradicted Lopez’s claims that mining operations had not helped the economic lives of people in their areas, which she described as the poorest among the poor.

Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josefina Ramirez-Sato insisted that Lopez’s oassion for social justice should not prevail over the laws in enforcing her actions wgainst the mining companies.

Although she is so passionate about her environmental advocacy, Sato reminded the DENR secretary about adherence to the law. “If you want to improve, give them their rights, that is the essence of democracy.”

On several occasions, she demanded from Lopez the laws which she used as basis for the closure and cancellation of MPSA.

She also asked Lopez about her appointment of her own undersecretaries despite the lack of open positions.

Citing feedback from DENR personnel themselves, Sato said this practice has left organic department officials “demoralized.”

Sato said she respected Lopez’s prerogative to choose her own team, “but not at the expense of the organic personnel.”

But Lopez responded that she could not build a team based on whether or not it would cause hurt feelings.

“I need people whom I trust. The organic personnel do not have the capability to do what I want. What about the work I want to do for our country?” she said.

San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, also CA member, said the arguments raised by the oppositors have enough basis.

“Can the green economy, a system that will depend on ecotourism, replace the lost jobs, their income after being rendered jobless? “ he asked.

Zamora’s elder brother, Manuel Zamora Jr., is the chairman of Nickel Asia Corp., the country’s largest nickel miner, which insisted on being compliant with all the laws.

Miners from the country’s mining industry on Thursday urged the CA to reject the ad interim appointment of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, saying she was “unfit and unqualified” in her job.

Chamber of Mines of the Philippines vice president for legal and policy Ronald Recidoro said they oppose the confirmation of Lopez as she has shown herself unfit and unqualified to be the government’s lead regulator.

“We want to be clear–the issue here today is not the mining Industry. The issue is whether or not Secretary-designate Lopez is the right person to head the DENR,” Recidoro told the CA’s committee on environment chaired by Senator Manny Pacquiao during Lopez’s confirmation hearing.

“We ask–is she competent to lead the DENR? Does she have the experience, education, impartiality and temperament to accomplish the Department’s objectives? To all these questions, we say no, no and no,” said Recidoro.

Recidoro noted recent events have shown that they are dealing with someone who does not believe in the Constitution’s mandate for the state to undertake the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources, and as such, has put them, the government’s partners in mineral development, at a quandary.

He dismissed Lopez’s characterization of miners are “environmental rapists.”

Recidoro said Lopez insisted on an industry-wide audit even as some of the miners have secured ISO or international certifications.

“Lopez bypassed legal and administrative processes and disregarded the sanctity of contracts by ordering the closure or suspension of 28 mines and threatening to cancel 75 agreements,” Recidoro said.

He cautioned that the cancellation of contracts could spawn “hundreds” of contract disputes similar to government’s dispute with the German builder of Naia Terminal 3.

“Cancelling contracts without due process and changing rules in the middle of the game frightens away quality investors,” he said.

He also slammed Recidoro’s disregard for due process in ordering the closure of mining operations.

Recidoro also rejected Lopez’s stand against mining in watersheds and open-pit mining contending that such are allowed by law under certain conditions.

COMP has been the most vocal among those against Lopez’s confirmation as environment secretary, ever since she announced the closure and suspension of 28 ‘mining areas in the country–all run by COMP members

In February, the group submitted its formal opposition to Lopez’s confirmation before the CA.

Calling mining the “most misunderstood industry in the country today,” Recidoro cited the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 in saying that mining companies can’t just go into any area and mine any which way they want.”

Recidoro said Lopez has the duty to enforce the law strictly and consistently.

The chamber highlighted four reasons to pass the confirmation.

1. She does not know the law.

2. She cannot balance her functions as secretary of environment and of natural resources. According to the group, Lopez’s bias agianst mining leaves her unable to appreciate the mechanics of the Mining Act, where rehabilitation is an indispensable requirement.”

3. Her actions expose the Philippine government to massive financial liability from international arbitration, similar to that awarded to Piatco for the construction of the the NAIA Terminal 3, the group said.

4. She is fast and loose with government funds.