CA to bypass Gina Lopez as environment chief – Pacquiao

Jee Y. Geronimo
CA to bypass Gina Lopez as environment chief – Pacquiao
(UPDATED) Pacquiao says they will give Lopez time to respond to questions raised during the Commission on Appointments' March 14 meeting

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Commission on Appointments (CA) is poised to bypass the appointment of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Wednesday, March 15.

This was revealed by Senator Manny Pacquiao, chair of the CA committee on environment and natural resources, in an ambush interview after a CA meeting on Tuesday, March 14 where Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III was invited as resource person. 

“Bypassed ‘yan, by tomorrow (she will be bypassed by tomorrow),” Pacquiao told reporters.

“I’m the chair so I will not allow to do voting today for tomorrow” – referring to the CA plenary Wednesday – “because [it’s] unfair to the [appointee], she’s not here,” Pacquiao said. Lopez is out of the country for a personal trip.

Wednesday will also be the last day of the 1st regular session of Congress. Congress will convene again on May 2.

He said that Tuesday’s executive session will focus on the process for Lopez’s confirmation hearings in May, during which the CA will decide on whether to confirm her or not.

He also said that the CA will send her a copy of Tuesday’s committee meeting so that she can review, “and after that in May I’ll give her time to respond to this meeting, and we will ask questions [to] her.”

Pacquiao also said he is “sure” President Rodrigo Duterte will reappoint her.

This will be the second time Lopez is effectively bypassed by the CA. Duterte reappointed her to the DENR post last November after the CA in October bypassed her initial appointment.

Finance chief at CA meeting

During the CA meeting, Dominguez explained the process of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council’s (MICC) review into Lopez’s order to close down or suspend 28 mining sites in the country.

Pacquiao said they will give Lopez a chance to answer the issues raised by Dominguez.

I think as a chairman, ito ata ‘yung pinakamatagal na pagdinig. Talagang binigyan ko ng time, oppositors’ side, appointee’s side, binibigyan kong time para mag-explain,” he explained.

(I think as a chairman, this might be the longest confirmation hearing. I really gave time to the oppositors’ side, the appointee’s side, I gave them time to explain.)

He added: “Right now, may mga kinausap ako, tinanong ako, ayoko naman silang pilitin kasi may sarili silang decision. Tinatanong, pinupulsahan ko. May chance naman [to be confirmed], pero 50-50.

(Right now, I’ve talked to some CA members, I asked them, and I don’t want to force them because they have their own decision. I asked them, I’m weighing it. She has a chance to be confirmed, but it’s 50-50.)

He added: “Marami pa kaming katanungan, ‘yung members marami pa kaming katanungan hindi lamang sa mining. Kasi as DENR secretary, ‘di lang mining ang sakop nun. ‘Yung tinatawag natin na competence.

(There are still a lot of questions from CA members that are not just about mining. A DENR secretary’s jurisdiction extends beyond mining. We’re looking at competence to do the job.)

A known anti-mining advocate before joining the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Lopez has consistently made headlines in the past 8 months after launching an audit on all existing mines in the country.

Aside from the closure and suspension orders, Lopez also ordered the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) in watersheds all over the country.

Lopez admitted her fate at the CA is uncertain because there are members of the commission who are “into mining.”

True enough, during the CA’s 2-day marathon hearing on her confirmation, most of the questions for the environment secretary revolved around her decisions concerning the mining industry. 

After the hearing, the President himself has since defended Lopez in at least two instances already: during a speech at a public event in Baguio City on Saturday, March 11, and again on Monday, March 13, during a press conference at Malacañang. (READ: Duterte pleads to CA: Allow Gina Lopez to present her case

Lopez now faces a graft complaint filed by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines before the Office of the Ombudsman.Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.