MANILA – Congressmen on Tuesday questioned Environment Secretary Gina Lopez's decision to shutter or suspend 28 mines, saying mining companies were not given due process.
Lawmakers asked why Lopez ordered closures when the report of the team that inspected the entire mining industry only recommended suspensions.
Lopez had said due process was followed in the mining audit and ordering closures was within her authority.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said Lopez’s order would cost “thousands” of jobs in his district, adding the decision was “arbitrary.”
Barbers said the environment department’s refusal to immediately furnish mining companies with copies of the audit results showed a lack of due process.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said the decision appeared based on Lopez’s “whim.” He also questioned why anti-mining groups were tapped for the audit.
“There should be justifiable reason why you should close the mines,” Pimentel said.
Lopez did not attend the hearing due to a prior commitment abroad. Lawmakers said she might be issued a subpoena if she refuses a second invitation.
Environment undersecretary Leo Jasareno told lawmakers that "major violations" were found, including "impairment" of functioning watersheds, and lack of waste and tree-cutting permits and siltation control systems.