The uncertainty hounding the local mining industry cleared a bit last week with the Commission on Appointments’ rejection—on a 16-8 secret vote—of the nomination of Gina Lopez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, vice chair of the commission, cited the reason for the rejection: “It is not enough that you have passion for the job. It is not enough that you have certain convictions. It’s important, too, that you have every minimum of qualifications for the job. Many of us were uncertain that she had that.”
But more than this is that the commission must have given weight to the stiff opposition of mining companies to Lopez’s appointment. And why wouldn’t it? In her 10-month tenure, Lopez nearly shut down the mining industry when she ordered the closure of 23 mines reportedly located in watersheds, the suspension of five others, and the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements. Just before the commission issued its decision, Lopez also banned future open-pit mining.
This development leaves one issue that needs to be resolved soonest: What will happen to the controversial orders issued by Lopez? The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has said it would seek the reversal of Lopez’s orders as it felt that these had no legal foundation, were issued without benefit of proper consultations, and were “really out to kill the mining industry.” We believe the interagency Mineral Industry Coordinating Council will do the Philippines and Filipinos a favor by continuing its assessment of Lopez’s orders, reversing those that are without basis, and enforcing those that rest on valid grounds.