REPOST: Much ado about Henry: Gina Lopez pulls all stops to help French friend

http://www.philintheblank.org/special-coverage/much-ado-henry-gina-lopez-pulls-stops-help-french-friend/

Philippine Star columnist Alex Magno on (March 14) detailed the efforts Lopez exerted to help EcoGlobal Inc. clinch a power contract in Zamboanga City.

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Originally posted in Politiko.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez’s doggedness in going after mining firms can only be matched perhaps by her resolve to helping a French company win a $100-million contract despite the shady background of one of its top officials.

Philippine Star columnist Alex Magno on Tuesday (March 14) detailed the efforts Lopez exerted to help EcoGlobal Inc. (EI) clinch a power contract in Zamboanga City.

Magno said Lopez “constantly badgered” DOE renewable energy director Mario Marasigan to grant EI the power supply contract without informing Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.

Lopez was determined to help EI even if its president, Jean-Philippe Henry, faces several criminal charges.

Among the cases filed against Henry was a falsification complaint by businesswoman Mercedes Zobel, who claimed her signature was forged in EI’s documents to make it appear it is 60 percent Filipino-owned.

Despite helping establish EcoGlobal Foundation Inc (EFI) to build a bamboo waste water treatment facility for the Urdaneta City University, Henry was ousted by the Filipino trustees after discovering he was withdrawing huge amounts the grant for his own use.

The Filipino trustees of EFI have filed a qualified theft charge against Henry before the National Bureau of Investigation.

According to Magno, Henry’s ouster did not sit well with Lopez, who wrote EFI to express her displeasure over the decision.

A day before the service contract was awarded to EI, Lopez and five other DENR officials left for an all-expense paid trip to France.

The bill for the trip was footed by EI, with Henry’s assurance.

Scam in the offing…

http://thestandard.com.ph/opinion/columns/to-the-point-by-emil-jurado/231881/scam-in-the-offing.html

_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?

What would life be without responsible mining?

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http://www.sunstar.com.ph/baguio/opinion/2017/03/14/gacad-what-would-life-be-without-responsible-mining-531052

By FELIZARDO GACAD JR

WE WERE having dinner at home with my family when my daughter asked me a question that somewhat “rocked” my senses. She relayed how her fellow workers asked her about what mining has positively contributed to us.

Apparently, one of her fellow nurses told their team that my daughter had a Mining Engineer father and, amid all the discussions and publicity the mining industry has been getting lately, she should reveal what the positive contributions of the industry has made. I really felt for her as perhaps she was speechless and could not give out definite answers. I felt it was my fault because as a Mining Engineer, I should have been educating my family about this very important, albeit controversial, industry that I am part of – an industry that has not only helped my family but countless other individuals and families all over the world.

So I see this need, now, to go back to basics and provide information to all of you out there about what mining has done for each and every person in this planet. I would like to qualify that as what “responsible mining” has done for each and every person in this planet.

I’ll start off with where my daughter works. She’s a nurse and I told her that the emergency room is one of the most important areas in the hospital. “What do you see there?” You have stainless steel medical tools and equipment, needles and pins, dextrose bottles, maybe a minor operating table made of steel. So where did all these come from? If mining was not here, then all these steel items will also not be around.

I went further and simplified. I said that most gadgets and life-saving equipment in the hospital areas are run by electricity – electricity that is transmitted by copper wires. “Where does copper come from?” Of course it is mined! Without mining, there would be no copper, and without copper, we’d have no electricity that runs almost all of our home and office appliances and equipment.

The mobile phone is made of different parts that are metal or that came from minerals. Communication would be impossible without mining.

Transportation would be impossible without mining, unless of course we go back to animal transport. But then again these animals “pull” objects that would one way or the other have been made because of metals and minerals that were mined – nails, iron bars, bearings, metals plates, and the list goes on and on.

I’ll be devoting this space to educating the public on what benefits we derive from responsible mining. Social media has been abuzz with nega comments and criticism but even Facebook would not be around if mining was gone. So wish me luck! I’d say the problem is the lack of information available, or to a large extent the misinformation available, about the benefits and contribution of responsible mining to the development of society in general.

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 15, 2017.

Seven myths in the mining debate

http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=seven-myths-in-the-mining-debate&id=142169

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The endless debate in mining is largely fueled by endless myths and disinformation that fan more emotionalism than reason. Below are some of these myths and the realities behind these half-truths.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bienvenido Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET and Stratbase-ADRi.

minimalgovernment@gmail.com

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34 NGOs dump Gina

http://thestandard.com.ph/news/top-stories/231604/34-ngos-dump-gina.html

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.

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“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

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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’

http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Corporate&title=manila-mining-hits-lopez-for-&145falsehood&8217-&id=142071

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.”

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“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’

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/879983/ca-member-tells-gina-lopez-the-law-is-the-law-is-the-law

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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

http://thestandard.com.ph/news/top-stories/231380/ca-gina-acting-above-the-law-.html

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.

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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.

Gina’s CA agony continues

http://news.mb.com.ph/2017/03/10/ginas-ca-agony-continues/

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By Mario B. Casayuran

The fate of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” La’o Lopez at the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA) continues to hang in the balance as the powerful body deferred action on her ad interim appointment yesterday.

Instead, the CA Committee on Environment, chaired by boxing champ Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao, decided to meet Tuesday morning at the Senate to review and analyze the testimonies of oppositors who want the CA to reject Lopez’s appointment, prolonging the environment advocate’s agony.

The CA committee members may decide to recommend the confirmation of Lopez’s appointment when the CA meets in plenary session on March 15.

If not, Lopez is deemed bypassed when the Senate and the House of Representatives go into a six-week recess starting March 18.

The meeting of committee members was decided by Pacquiao after terminating his more than eight hours of public hearing where 21 oppositors were given the chance to air their views against Lopez’s confirmation as DENR chief.

Lopez conceded that the Philippines has become a nation divided following her controversial decision to recommend the closure of 73 mining firms which are generally owned by foreigners.

When pressed by CA members, particularly Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, Sen. Vicente Sotto III and Reps. Joel Mayo Almario, Josephine Ramirez Sato, and Julieta Cortuna, Lopez assured the CA that not one mining company has been physically closed.

“That is up to the President,” she said.

President Duterte had earlier ordered the setting aside of P50 million for the review of Lopez’s closure order since “we get something like P70 billion a year out of the mining operations in the entire Philippines.”

Pacquiao said the mining companies ordered closed by DENR can still appeal to the President.

San Juan Rep. Ronaldo B. Zamora, CA vice chairman, said the Pacquiao committee will determine Tuesday whether Lopez is qualified and has track record or the experience to be at the helm of the DENR.

“It is all about Gina,” he added.

Zamora also said a conflict of interest issue that might be raised against him because his brother is a shareholder of Nickel Asia is non-issue.

He stressed that he has no economic or financial dependence from his brother out of the mining operations.

Zamora also doubted the assurances of Lopez to indigenous peoples (IPs) at mining sites that she would help them gain employment during the rehabilitation phase of the closed mining sites.

He doubted where Lopez can changed the mining sites into a green economy as IPs now depend on mining companies for their employment and other related services that mining companies extend.

Lopez stressed that she advocates social justice as an important criterion in closing the mines and that all her actions are backed up by the Philippine Constitution and seven laws on environment.

She also assured senators and congressmen that she would seek help from the Duterte Cabinet to help her make the country environmentally acceptable and to help the IPs.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, vowed to seek government funds for the IPs and others affected by Lopez’s closure orders.

University of the Philippines geology students questioned the scientific basis used by Lopez in closing down the mining operations.

One such issue was that Lopez did not want mining firms to operate in watershed areas but all the regions throughout the country have watersheds “and Metro Manila is seated over a watershed area.”

“Should Metro Manila vacate the place because it is seated over watershed area?” the UP student asked.