MANILA, Philippines — Further suggesting deep divisions in the president’s Cabinet, the Department of Finance on Wednesday criticized the move of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to question the legal basis of the review by the interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council of her department’s order to either suspend or close several mining operations in the country.
DOF Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said they were flustered why Lopez was questioning the legality of MICC even if she herself agreed to the multiagency review and signed the MICC resolution that paved the way for it.
Agabin said that it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who directed the DOF and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to convene the MICC to comprehensively discuss the results of the DENR audit that resulted in the closure of 23 mines and the suspension of the operations of five others.
Aside from these two agencies, the solicitor general, the chief presidential legal counsel and the secretary of justice were invited to the review.
“Hence, there was no usurpation of the DENR’s functions by the MICC because the president himself has ordered that the results of the DENR audit be discussed and reviewed, which is within the powers of the MICC,” he said.
The DOF undersecretary also criticized the DENR audit because it was not a multiparty review as required by Executive Order 79, which mandates the creation of MICC. He said that the audit involved only four personnel from the DENR and a third-party expert.