MANILA - (UPDATED) Environment Secretary Gina Lopez asked President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday to suspend a Cabinet oversight body's review of her decision to either close or suspend 28 mines, while the legality of such a review is under question.
Executive Order 79, which called for the creation of the Mineral Industry Coordinating Committee, delegates review powers over the mining industry to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, not the MICC, Lopez said in the memorandum, which she coursed through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
"They are not mandated to make a review of mining operations, DENR is. They are doing support, and for them to spend P50 million to do something they are not mandated to do is a bit ridiculous," Lopez told ANC.
"MICC was formed to support DENR but not to usurp its function," she added.
Lopez initially agreed to a multi-stakeholder review by the MICC, which she co-chairs with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, after mining companies protested the results of her industry-wide audit of compliance with environment standards.
"Clearly, there is nothing in the above that mandates the MICC to do a review of mining operations," Lopez said in the memorandum, referring to Executive Order 79.
A P50-million budget allotted for the MICC review will be better spent on mine workers who will be displaced by the closures, she said.
According to Lopez, MICC should follow the law that created it.
"Whatever he (Dominguez) says or I say, the fact remains the fact, is that MICC is not mandated to do a review of mining operations. It is mandated to do a review of services. I'm clearly beginning to be suspicious at what this is all about," she said.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that it was Lopez, together with her representative lawyer Christian Monsod, who drafted the resolution.
"On February 9 during the meeting of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, Secretary designate Gina Lopez brought Atty. Christian Monsod to the meeting and it was Atty. Christian Monsod who drafted the resolution that both she and I signed I am very surprised that she now claims that the document that her representative drafted and she signed together with me, she now claims it to be illegal?" Dominguez told ABS-CBN News Channel.