The Philippine Star

Another war between Rody allies: Lopez vs Dominguez


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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