May 6, 2017: Jockeying starts for DENR post; new names emerge

May 6, 2017: Jockeying starts for DENR post; new names emerge
 

MANILA, Philippines – Jockeying for the position of environment secretary has started, just days after the Commission on Appointments rejected President Duterte’s appointment of Gina Lopez as environment chief.

The President is reportedly scouting for possible replacements in several positions in the Cabinet, including the post vacated by Lopez.

While Lopez said she wants Duterte to head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, other names have surfaced as potential DENR chief.

Ramon Edison Batacan, a managing partner of the Davao-based Batacan Montejo Vicencio (BMV Law Firm), is reportedly among those that Duterte is considering to be the next environment secretary. The President personally knows Batacan.

Batacan is among the respected law luminaries in Davao City. He successfully prosecuted the dismantling of ball mills operating in the capital town of Tagum City, Davao del Norte which were found to be the source of mercury poisoning affecting school children in the area.

May 6, 2017: Environmentalist too much for the Philippines

May 6, 2017:    Environmentalist too much for the Philippines
 

Some certainty has returned to Oceana Gold’s gold-copper operation in the northern Philippines, after lawmakers rejected  Regina Lopez’s appointment as environment secretary.Ms Lopez had in less than 10 months in office ordered the closure of 22 of the country’s 41 operating mines, cancelled 75 contracts for yet-to-be-developed mines and last week banned any future open-pit mining.

Cabinet ministers in the Philippines must be confirmed by Congress, although voting often takes months after they are appointed and on Wednesday lawmakers voted 16-8 in favour of removing Ms Lopez, Reuters reported yesterday.

Oceana became embroiled in the escalating anti-mining sentiment when in mid-February  the  Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued it and four other miners suspension orders, citing environmental concerns.

However, that was immediately appealed by Oceana to the Office of the President, Rodrigo Duterte, which meant Oceana could continue operating.

Oceana’s Macraes mine in East Otago has been the mainstay of New Zealand’s largest gold-miner for the past 27 years.

However, for the last quarter production to March, its Didipio gold-copper mine on Luzon Island contributed the most gold to what was a record quarter of production for the company.

May 6, 2017: ‘Significant turnaround’ for Nickel Asia in Q1

May 6, 2017:  ‘Significant turnaround’ for Nickel Asia in Q1

“We are very pleased with our first quarter results despite the business challenges and tough market conditions we continue to face,” said Gerard H. Brimo, Nickel Asia president and chief executive officer.

“We will definitely build on this momentum as we now approach our peak shipment season which starts in the second quarter of the year,” he added.

The company told the stock exchange that the “significant turnaround” was because the combined effects of shipments of higher-value saprolite ore from its Rio Tuba and Taganito mines coupled with higher prices, a stronger US dollar, and much lower losses from the company’s equity share in its investments in Coral Bay and Taganito processing plants.

Nickel Asia said its net share of the losses on its 10% stake in the two plants amounted to just P10 million compared with the P226-million loss in the same period a year ago.

“The improved performance was mainly driven by lower operating costs coupled with higher cobalt prices, a bi-product of both plants,” it said.

May 6, 2017: 2nd review of Philippine mines to go ahead: Finance Official

May 6, 2017:    2nd review of Philippine mines to go ahead: Finance Official
 

Manila. The Philippine government will move forward with a second review of the country’s mines despite the removal of Regina Lopez as environment minister, a finance official said on Thursday (04/05).

The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), an inter-agency panel that includes the finance and environment ministries, ordered a review in February of the operations and the environmental and social impacts of the country’s mines.

“Definitely it will continue because it’s the mandate of the MICC to do just that regardless of who’s in the (Department of Environment and Natural Resources),” Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said in a statement.

The review will cover all 41 mines operating in the Philippines, including the 26 that Lopez had earlier ordered closed or suspended in February after a months-long audit last year led by the environment ministry. She also cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier.

The MICC ordered the review following criticism from miners that Lopez’s decision was baseless and lacked due process.

Lawmakers comprising the Commission of Appointments rejected Lopez as environment minister at a vote on Wednesday, ending her 10-month mining crackdown, which was backed by President Rodrigo Duterte but led to demands for her removal.

May 6, 2017: Rody: Gina’s ouster a part of the process

May 6, 2017: Rody: Gina’s ouster a part of the process
 

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday expressed disappointment over the Commission on Appointments removal of Regina Lopez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Duterte said that there are things that he cannot control but conceded that is how democracy works.

“It’s a pity about Gina,” he said in Filipino in a speech before orthopedic surgeons in Davao City. “I really like her passion. But you know how it is. This is democracy.’’ He also inferred heavy lobbying.

“I can’t control everything. I want to but I share powers. And that is the process of checks and balances,” he added. “The President appoints, but the appointee undergoes the scrutiny of the Commission on Appointments.”

Lopez was rejected by a vote of 16-8 by secret voting.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella, meanwhile, said that the stay order issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Lopez’s orders for affected mining companies to pay more than P2 million per hectare of land, will continue until Duterte appoints a new environment chief.

May 5, 2017: Lacson explains no vote for Gina Lopez

May 5, 2017: Lacson explains no vote for Gina Lopez
 

MANILA – A senator who voted against the confirmation of Gina Lopez as environment secretary said his decision was due to many reasons, including her supposed “authoritarian tendencies.”

“[S]he admittedly arrogated unto herself the authority which is not prescribed under the existing laws of the land. That makes her potentially dangerous as a department head,” Lacson said in a statement on Thursday.

He added, the “two basic criteria” for confirmation are fitness and competence. While Lopez showed passion and enthusiasm, these do not automatically translate into these two traits, he added.

According to the lawmaker, Lopez failed to show she was qualified for the post, based on his “own observation and analysis of her performance” during the confirmation proceedings.

“On a personal note, I hate being intimidated and pressured in the performance of my duties as a legislator and member of the [Commission on Appointments]. Her supporters can speculate all they want why I voted to reject her confirmation but these are my reasons and nothing more,” he added.

May 5, 2017: 2nd review of Philippines mines audits to go ahead – Finance

May 5, 2017: 2nd review of Philippines mines audits to go ahead – Finance
 

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine government will move forward with a second review of the country’s mines despite the removal of Regina Lopez as environment minister, a finance official said on Thursday.

The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), an inter-agency panel that includes the finance and environment ministries, ordered a review in February of the operations and the environmental and social impacts of the country’s mines.

“Definitely it will continue because it’s the mandate of the MICC to do just that regardless of who’s in the (Department of Environment and Natural Resources),” Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said in a statement.

The review will cover all 41 mines operating in the Philippines, including the 26 that Lopez had earlier ordered closed or suspended in February after a months-long audit last year led by the environment ministry. She also cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier.

The MICC ordered the review following criticism from miners that Lopez’s decision was baseless and lacked due process.

May 5, 2017: Ejercito chides CA members with mining interests who did not inhibit from Lopez vote

May 5, 2017: Ejercito chides CA members with mining interests who did not inhibit from Lopez vote
 

Members of the Commission on Appointments (CA) with mining interests should have inhibited from voting on the confirmation of Gina Lopez as Environment secretary, Senator JV Ejercito on Thursday said.

Ejercito, a member of the bicameral body, was one of the senators who manifested having voted in favor of Lopez’s appointment.

“I suggested to CA members with connections or interests in mining to inhibit out of delicadeza,” Ejercito said in a text message.

“Ronny Zamora might accuse me of local politics, but the least he could have done to remove the perception of their vested interest was not to take part in the voting. Sad to say perception is that vested interest won in this battle,” the senator added.

The families of Senator Ejercito and Rep. Ronaldo Zamora are political rivals in San Juan City. –

May 4, 2017: Chamber of Mines to seek reversal of mine closure orders

May 4, 2017: Chamber of Mines to seek reversal of mine closure orders
 

MANILA (Reuters) – A Philippine mining group will seek the reversal of policy moves by Environment Minister Regina Lopez to close mines and ban open-pit mining after Congress rejected her appointment.

“We’ll ask for a review and reversal of all those adverse orders as soon as the next secretary is appointed,” Ronald Recidoro, spokesman for the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, told Reuters.

“We feel that those have no legal foundation. There were no proper consultations held. The interests of all stakeholders were not considered.”

Philippine lawmakers earlier on Wednesday rejected the appointment of Lopez as environment minister, 10 months into her term in office.

May 4, 2017: Aquino allowed mining areas to expand by 6% despite moratorium

May 4, 2017: Aquino allowed mining areas to expand by 6% despite moratorium
 

The Aquino administration allegedly violated its own moratorium on new mining deals when it
allowed the areas covered by Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) to increase by about 6 percent at the tail end of its term.

Some of the MPSAs that got area expansion were among those subsequently canceled by Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez in February for being within or near watersheds.

Most of the MPSA area expansions were approved in the first six months of 2016, or before the election and subsequent takeover of the Duterte administration.

A study conducted by the BusinessMirror revealed that 16 companies engaged in ore extraction, cement production and quarrying were able to expand their mining areas through amendments of their existing MPSAs.

With this, mining areas grew by a total of 35,067.35 hectares, the bulk of the expansion happening in May and June 2016.