MANILA, Philippines – As Environment Secretary Gina Lopez prepares to go through the Commission on Appointments wringer, a senior Cabinet official indirectly reminded her that leading a government agency is not the same as waging a crusade.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III made the statement at a Palace news briefing on Tuesday, February 28, when he was asked if he believed Lopez would be good for government and should be confirmed by the CA.
"That's not up to me. We are members of a team that was put together by President Duterte and we exert all effort to work as team members. You know, being secretary is not like being a crusader; being a secretary is balancing the needs of the different sectors in society," Dominguez said.
"Crusader" is a term of endearment Duterte often uses to refer to Lopez. The President continues to support Lopez's determination to crack down on mines that do not comply with environmental standards. (READ: Confusion over the mining list: How did DENR decide on closure?)
The finance chief is opposed to Lopez's decision to shut down 23 mining operations and suspend 5 others without giving the companies "due process." He had earlier cited its impact on the investor climate and on the mining industry, which employs over a million people. (READ: DOF: Mining closures to cost LGUs over P821M in revenue losses)
Dominguez, alluding to the conflict between miners and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under Lopez, said working in government requires a "balancing act."
"In government actually there [are] very few win-win situations. Some groups win and some groups lose. You just make sure that your decisions cover the majority and are good for the majority," said the finance chief.
He emphasized the importance of a "rational" process of making decisions when one is secretary.
"You have to have an approach that is very balanced, that is very deliberate, that is very rational, that is science-based," he said.
Despite miners and Dominguez's concerns, Lopez and other DENR officials have maintained that they observed due process in issuing orders to stop mining operations. (READ: Lopez: MICC cannot tell me what to do)
Miners have banded together to block Lopez's confirmation as Environment Secretary. Dominguez, who repeatedly referred to Lopez as "Secretary-Designate," said democracy allows miners to do this.
"That is part of the democratic process; that is part of the process of getting confirmed...People are free to give their comments, either for or against," he said.
Lopez was set to face the CA on Wednesday, March 1, but the hearing was postponed because of the reorganization at the Senate.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.