ENVIRONMENT Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez came down with guns blazing against the mining lobby that fought hard to block her nomination to the Duterte Cabinet.
In a news conference, Lopez told reporters: “It is very sad that in the Commission on Appointments, clearly business interests have run the day and I think that, it needs to be reevaluated.”
Lopez asked the lawmakers who voted “no” to explain their reasons for rejecting her nomination as Environment secretary.
“How can a body that is mandated to make decisions based on common good, make decisions based on business interest?” a fuming Lopez said.
Lopez said her post was powerful as it had the resources and money to eradicate poverty.
“Anyone who’s here if they have guts and the courage to step in business interests, you get killed,” she said.
Every Filipino, she stressed, has the constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment, and it is the duty of the government to grant that right.
Lopez sent shockwaves through the mining industry during her 10 months as Environment chief, seeking to shut down roughly two-thirds of the nation’s existing mines and banning any new open-pit operations.
However, despite public support from President Rodrigo Duterte who had threatened to shut down the mining industry completely, the powerful congressional appointments body rejected Lopez’s appointment.
“If you want to be confirmed, don’t go against big business,” an angry Lopez shouted after the ruling.
“It’s wrong when lawmakers don’t stand up for the rights of every Filipino, but rather big business. It’s really very wrong.”
Malacañang immediately accepted the decision of the Commission on Appointments.
Speaking to reporters, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Palace respects the process of the powerful body.
“It is with deep concern that the [commission]has seen it fit to reject her appointment. On the other hand, it’s a democratic process and we respect their decision,” Abella said.
The Palace lauded Lopez’s performance. “She’s part of the Cabinet and she has contributed a lot of meaningful insights into the environment and the Philippine environmental situation,” he said.
Abella could not say who Duterte would appoint as Environment secretary but said he believed the President was choosing from “many names.”
Asked if it was possible Lopez would be given another post in the Duterte administration, Abella said: “That’s a possibility but we don’t know yet.”
Also on Wednesday, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) lashed out at lawmakers for rejecting Lopez’s appointment.
“It shows how the greedy politicians connected with big mining and logging corporations dominate the composition of Congress,” the advocacy group said in a statement.
“VACC calls on the various non-government groups who are against illegal mining, logging, and fishing to unite and exhaust all legal means to protest the unjust and unfair decision of the Commission on Appointments,” it said.
“VACC asks President Duterte to retain Secretary Gina in DENR despite the rejection.”
NIKKI J. DELOS REYES, CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND AFP