May 3, 2017 - The Philippine Congress rejected Wednesday the appointment of the country's acting environment chief who ordered the closure and suspension of dozens of mines that she says harm the environment and local communities.
The rejection of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez was recommended by the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources headed by Sen. Manny Pacquiao, the boxing champion. Several senators supporting Lopez took the floor to express disappointment.
Lopez, a passionate environmentalist who has locked horns with the mining industry and other members of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet, ordered the closure of 23 mines, suspension of five others and the cancellation of 75 mining contracts. Audit showed the mines harm watersheds and cause siltation in coastal waters and farms, she said.
"It is very sad, that in the Commission on Appointments, clearly, business interests have run the day," Lopez, whose family owns the country's largest television network, told reporters.
She said that it was the constitutional right of every Filipino to have a clean environment, and when people make choices "based on business interests, transgressing the right of every Filipino to what God has given them, it is wrong."
Ronald Recidoro, vice president of the Chamber of Mines, welcomed the decision. He said they will seek a reversal of orders against the 28 operating mines and the 75 mining contracts.
The mines ordered closed include nickel mines that account for about half of the annual output in the Philippines, the world's biggest nickel ore producer.
At the Philippine Stock Exchange, the mining and oil sector index closed 2.73 percent up.