CA rejects Lopez as environment secretary

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 03 2017 02:00 PM | Updated as of May 03 2017 05:43 PM

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez. Erik De Castro, Reuters

MANILA - (UPDATE) Lawmakers on Wednesday rejected the appointment of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who cracked down on alleged unsafe mining practices during her 10 months in office.

A majority of the members of the Commission on Appointments voted against Lopez according to Senator Manny Pacquiao, who led the confirmation hearings. He did not say how many voted in favor or if there were abstentions.

"Gina’s uphill climb to reach her goal as DENR secretary was a tall call decision, that perhaps, the wisdom of Solomon must be sought," Pacquiao said.

"To Gina, I truly admire your passion and love for the environment, your dreams to make the brown fields turned into green, the water to be clean and clean fresh air to surround our land," he added.

Mining groups and their advocates opposed Lopez during marathon hearings last March.

"Dama ko ang iyong malasakit sa kalikasan," Pacquiao said.

(I feel your concern for the environment.)

"I believe in my heart that no matter how several big people may be against Gina, she will always stand by what she believes is morally and environmentally right and righteous," he said.

Senators Francis Pangilinan, Loren Legarda, Tito Sotto and JV Ejercito manifested during the CA plenary session that they voted for Lopez's confirmation.

Lopez, a committed environmentalist, angered the mining industry after ordering the closure of 22 of the Philippines' 41 mines in February to protect water resources in the world's top nickel ore exporter.

She later cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines and just last week banned future open-pit mining projects as she tightened her crackdown of a sector she blames for extensive environmental damage.

Lopez made a final case for her confirmation before the CA on Tuesday, saying the constitutional right to a clean environment should be prioritized over business interests.

Under questioning from lawmakers, Lopez also defended the legal basis for requiring nickel miners that remove their ore stockpiles to set aside an additional P2 million per hectare of disturbed land on top of funds already set aside to repair environmental damage.