MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said on Thursday, February 9, that the “closure” of 23 mining operations will only be final once President Rodrigo Duterte decides on the appeals of the mining companies.
“It only takes effect when it’s rendered final by the President. For example, they can appeal. When the President says, ‘no you really shouldn’t do that,’ then it’s final,” Lopez said at a Palace news briefing on Thursday, February 9.
She said that as long as a mining company has an appeal pending with the Office of the President, its mining operations can continue.
“If they don’t agree [with the closure order] and I think they don’t agree, is that they will appeal. So when they appeal to the President, the mine still continues operation while it’s on appeal. Then when the President studies the situation and sees, ‘Yeah, you know, why should we just allow these mines to go on?’ He decides, ‘Yeah, for social justice, we’ll do this.’ Then, it’s final. Then they can go to court,” she said.
On February 2, Lopez announced the closure of 23 mining operations, believing it is illegal for a mine to operate inside watersheds. (READ: Confusion over the mining list: How did DENR decide on closure?)
But it seems Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III had appealed on behalf of the mining sector about the closure during the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “The President and his Cabinet collectively decided to observe due process with regard to the mining issue.”
Specifically, this would mean giving mining firms the chance to “respond or dispute” the DENR’s mining audit.
According to the Department of Finance, some 195,000 individuals directly or indirectly depend on the mining sites for livelihood.
The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), co-chaired by Lopez and Dominguez, are set to meet on Thursday afternoon to discuss the mining closures.
But Lopez insisted her position on the mining issue would not change.
“The mining council is recommendatory. It will take a miracle to be able to convince me to allow mining in watersheds because as far as I know, it’s against the law,” she said.
She also emphasized that she followed due process when auditing the mining operations.
“I have followed the rule of law at every single, single step of the way,” she said.
Lopez said, at the end of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Duterte reiterated his support for her policies.
“His last closing remark was, ‘I agree there shouldn’t be mining in watersheds,” she recalled. – Rappler.com