MANILA—Environment Secretary Gina Lopez was faced with a barrage of questions from the Commission on Appointments (CA) and her oppositors in day two of the hearing on her appointment on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Lopez’s confirmation was suspended before over 20 oppositors were finished their turns.
One of the oppositors, Chamber of Mines Vice President for Legal and Policy Ronald Recidoro, said that his association felt that Lopez “is not the right person to lead DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources).
Recidoro questioned her decision to order the closure and suspension of several metallic mines noting that she did not think it through.
“Did she really think these closures through?” Recidoro asked.
He pointed out that Lopez had a bias against mining and a blatant disregard for government processes which make her unfit to become DENR Secretary.
He also cited reasons as her “ideology and fanaticism.”
“The issue here is not the mining industry. The issue is whether or not Secretary Lopez is the right person to lead the DENR. Is she competent to lead the DENR? We say, no, no, no!” Recidoro said.
Lopez, for her part, assured Recidoro that due process was followed in closing mines stressing that they committed environmental violations.
She told him that there were around 13 mines that were allowed to operate because they complied with the agency’s requirements.
Recidoro said that if the mines were allowed to operate in the first place, it was the failure of the DENR as a regulatory agency.
Lopez admitted that the agency, in the past, has failed in its regulatory function but vowed to rectify it immediately.
The Secretary also noted that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), an attached agency of the DENR, prioritized to help mining companies and not make sure that they follow rules.
She said that 82 percent of net income from mining went to mining companies and not poor communities and described the DENR as a “seedbed of corruption”.
Several other oppositors from mining groups and universities also noted her lack of technical knowledge about the agency she heads.
Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Sato asked Lopez why she appointed her own undersecretaries and assistant secretaries which she thought made other officials feel “demoralized.”
Lopez said she selected people she trusted as members of the team and stressed that it was her right to do so.
She also stood by her appointment of one of her undersecretaries, former MGB director Leo Jasareno, who allegedly approved questionable mining permits during his term.
The secretary also said that she had zero tolerance for corruption and stood by Jaserno’s honesty.
The hearing was led by CA Committee on Environment chair Sen. Manny Pacquiao who wanted to clarify if Lopez was completely against mining.
Lopez said that her policy was not against mining but was against the destruction of the environment.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, committee member, said that Lopez’s presentation on Wednesday was so convincing that he had wanted to move to recommend her to plenary but said that he felt that the responses made “were not enough to convince at least 13 members.”
Lacson said that he wanted to help Lopez get past her confirmation hearings and that he did not want her to suffer the same fate as that of Foreign Affairs Secretary
”Just bear in mind that you are here to convince us. I don’t want you to suffer the fate as Sec. Yasay,” Lacson said.
Yasay’s appointment was rejected by the CA on Tuesday for his failure to explain his US citizenship status.