MANILA, Philippines – Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and some members of the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Tuesday, March 14, tried to make sense of President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent statements on mining.
On Monday, March 13, Duterte said he is considering imposing a total ban on mining. He also reiterated his support for Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who is likely to be bypassed again by the CA.
During a CA meeting on Tuesday, Senator Franklin Drilon asked Dominguez if “matters have been settled” with Duterte’s statement that “he’s backing up all the actions of Secretary Lopez.”
“The closure of the mines, I think all of us who listened to the President, who watched television, were of the impression that the President said, ‘I’m backing up Secretary Lopez in all of these issues of the closure,'” the senator explained.
Lopez in February ordered the closure or suspension of 28 mining sites in the country. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said these firms can still appeal the decision before the Office of the President.
Dominguez answered: “Mr Senator, I cannot read the President’s mind, and I don’t know what he meant, but all I know is that there [are] processes to be followed.” (READ: Dominguez: There was ‘failure’ of due process in mining audit)
He added: “If a mine is closed, and if the mine appeals to the Office of the President or to DENR or to the courts, there is a process to be followed. I doubt if the President will not follow those procedures, because he’s a stickler for following the law.”
Drilon further pressed Dominguez for an answer, saying that it is precisely because the President is a stickler for following the law that “we assume that he has full knowledge of what the situation is when he made those statements yesterday, in public, and in the papers today.”
“I cannot judge whether he has full knowledge or not, but there is a process to be followed, and I’m certain that if the appeal is made to the Office of the President, that they will hear the appeal and that’s the matter of the law,” the finance chief replied.
But Drilon noted that “the one who’ll decide” made a statement “which appears to be judgment on all of the appeals made.”
“I’m seeking the opinion of the co-chair of the [Mining Industry Coordinating Council] whether or not with the statements yesterday of the President on these issues in so far as the closure of the mines are concerned has become academic, because it has already been decided, in effect, from what we gathered by the President on the basis of the statements yesterday,” he added.
Dominguez then reiterated that he can’t read Duterte’s mind, but based on his understanding, “the matter is not closed” until the President signs the closure order.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano also joined the discussion, saying that one way to understand Duterte’s thinking is to look at a combination of his statements.
“If you look at the series of interviews he’s given, what has been clear? He will not compromise pagdating sa (when it comes to the) environment,” he explained.
“He will support Secretary Gina Lopez as far as she is following the law and protecting the environment. But he has also stated that there is a law that permits mining, therefore he will permit mining, but he is asking that we fund the law and that we up our standards.”
The CA invited Dominguez as a resource person during Tuesday’s meeting to explain the MICC’s review of the DENR’s closure and suspension orders. – Rappler.com