Lopez disregarded due process in mines closures – Dominguez
MANILA — Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez told an independent congressional body on Tuesday that Environment Secretary Gina Lopez had failed to comply with due process in ordering the closure of 23 mines and the suspension of five others, a crackdown that has drawn heavy criticism from the mining industry and affected communities.
Speaking at a caucus of the Commission on Appointments’ committee on environment and natural resources, Dominguez said Lopez had failed to consult critical sectors.
“DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment said they were not consulted. I believe the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) also said they were not consulted,” Dominguez told the bicameral body.
“So I think there was some kind of failure in the charge of due process. Quite frankly sure, I’m part of the President’s team in the Cabinet. My job is to make sure that deficiencies of others are covered,” said the official, who was speaking as co-chair of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).
On orders of the President, the MICC has initiated a technical review of the mining audit that led to Lopez’s closure and suspension orders.
Dominguez said the body, co-chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) itself, has started the process of assembling five review teams, with the vetting of members expected to be done by this week.
The MICC is then going to formally request the review budget pegged at P50 million. Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said the review might take three months for the 28 affected mines, and “two to three years” for all 311 mines in the country.
Lopez has questioned the MICC review. But at Tuesday’s caucus, Dominguez said he was only after the proper enforcement of the law, citing that questions on due process have actually delayed the implementation of closure orders.
To date, the closure and suspension orders have not been enforced, Agabin said. To his knowledge, he told the body, the mines ordered shut have continued to operate.
“I’m here to make sure that if you close a mine, it stays closed. Because if the process is not followed, they (mining firms) go to make an appeal, and if due process is not followed then the mine might open again,” Dominguez said.
“I have to make sure that the potential liabilities of government are covered,” he added. SFM/rga
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