MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he suspects that a conspiracy among big businesses led to the rejection of Gina Lopez as environment secretary more than a year ago.
“Nung si Ma’am Gina tinanggal ng Commission on Appointments (When Ma’am Gina was removed by the Commission on Appointments), maybe because she came very strong against the business. Sa (In the) mining industry, I think there was a conspiracy to remove her and they did. Well, the rest is history. She was doing well, she was going against moneyed people and she was against the destruction of her native land,” Duterte said in a speech during the 31st founding anniversary celebration of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City.
Lopez was at the event held at the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Amphitheater at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center. Also present was her replacement, current Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
Lopez, a committed environmentalist, angered the mining industry after ordering the closure of 22 of the Philippines' 41 mines in February 2017 to protect water resources in the world's top nickel ore exporter.
She later cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines and banned future open-pit mining projects as she tightened her crackdown on a sector she blamed for extensive environmental damage.
Cimatu said the result of the review of Lopez’s closure orders will be disclosed this month.
Lopez’s appointment as Duterte’s first environment secretary was rejected by the powerful CA in May last year. Her nomination was met by opposition from the mining sector.
As he made statements on Lopez’s rejection, Duterte again vowed to ban open-pit mining.
“Alam ng mining people iyan na talagang hihintuin ko yan (Mining people know that I will really stop it),” Duterte said.
“Maybe they will try to revive it at some other time but it’s not really my concern anymore.”