An­other war be­tween Rody al­lies: Lopez vs Dominguez

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By ELIZABETH MARCELO

Her de­ci­sion to close down 23 big min­ing firms is fi­nal and can­not be over­turned by the Min­ing In­dus­try Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil (MICC), Envi The ron­ment Sec­re­tary Gina Lopez said yes­ter­day.

“They are not my boss. The only one who can tell me what to do is the President,” Lopez said in an in­ter­view.

Lopez slammed Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Car­los Dominguez III for sup­pos­edly try­ing to “usurp” her power with the cre­ation of the MICC in Fe­bru­ary.

“When Sonny Dominguez said that he would spend P50 mil­lion to re­view min­ing op­er­a­tions, it seemed to me like spend­ing money to do some­thing which is sim­i­lar to a usurpa­tion of pow­ers. You’re not sup­posed to do that,” Lopez said.

She ad­mit­ted that she “naively” agreed with the cre­ation of the MICC upon the in­sis­tence of Dominguez.

Lopez, how­ever, re­it­er­ated that the find­ings of the coun­cil will just be “rec­om­menda­tory” as the law is clear that the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources is the sole gov­ern­ment agency man­dated to re­view min­ing op­er­a­tions.

“The audit is fin­ished, I’ve al­ready made my de­ci­sion. I think this is Sonny’s idea. He wanted to do some­thing more, what­ever. But if you’re not go­ing to eval­u­ate from the lens of so­cial jus­tice, I’m not there,” Lopez said.

It was in Fe­bru­ary when Lopez an­nounced the clo­sure of 23 min­ing firms and sus­pen­sion of five firms that sup­pos­edly failed the DENR’s min­ing audit.

Lopez also can­celed 75 min­eral pro­duc­tion-shar­ing agree­ments (MPSAs) be­tween pri­vate firms and the gov­ern­ment, say­ing the firms’ op­er­a­tions are within or near wa­ter­sheds.

Fol­low­ing Lopez’s de­ci­sion, Dominguez cre­ated the MICC to re­view the DENR audit.

Co-chaired by Lopez and Dominguez, the coun­cil started this month its re­view on the op­er­a­tions of the min­ing firms or­dered closed by DENR.

Dominguez, a for­mer min­ing ex­ec­u­tive, ear­lier ac­cused Lopez of fail­ing to ob­serve proper pro­ce­dure in is­su­ing the clo­sure or­der.

Lopez’s or­der to close down 23 min­ing firms was met with strong op­po­si­tion by var­i­ous busi­ness groups, es­pe­cially by the Cham­ber of Mines of the Philip­pines (CMP).

Early this month, the group filed a graft com­plaint against Lopez be­fore the Of­fice of the Om­buds­man in con­nec­tion with her al­legedly “bi­ased” de­ci­sion.

Mean­while, in a state­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) tagged Dominguez as among the peo­ple be­hind the Com­mis­sion on Ap­point­ment’s de­ci­sion to by­pass the ap­point­ment of Lopez as en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tary.

The group said Dominguez’s com­pany Al­sons Con­sol­i­dated Re­sources Inc. (ACR), wherein he was di­rec­tor from 1995 to 2016, owns stocks in In­dophil Re­sources.

In­dophil is in­volved in the Tam­pakan cop­per and gold min­ing project in Gen­eral San­tos City.

“Paul Dominguez, brother of Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Car­los Dominguez, chairs In­dophil Re­sources. Al­though Dominguez no longer sits in Al­sons, we be­lieve the Dominguez fam­ily’s con­nec­tions can­not be eas­ily erased by the act of di­vest­ing from the busi­ness,” the group said.

“We stud­ied the min­ing com­pa­nies that would be af­fected by the clo­sure and sus­pen­sion or­ders of Lopez, in­clud­ing the is­suance of ‘show-cause or­ders’ to min­ing projects in wa­ter­shed ar­eas. We found com­mon names and these are peo­ple with in­flu­ence both in busi­ness and pol­i­tics. We sur­mise that these are the same pow­ers that are block­ing our re­form ini­tia­tives,” ATM na­tional co­or­di­na­tor Jay­bee Gar­gan­era said.

Among these names is Sen. Cyn­thia Vil­lar’s son Manuel Paolo, who owns Prime As­set Ven­tures Inc., a par­ent-com­pany of Kingk­ing Min­ing Corp., and TVI Re­sources Devel­op­ment Philip­pines Inc.

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