Senator Manny Pacquiao said he was sure that Environment Secretary Gina Lopez will be reappointed by President Rodrigo Duterte even after she will be bypassed by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
Pacquiao, chair of the CA Committee on Environment, said the CA will deem Lopez bypassed as the Congress adjourns on Wednesday.
He said there is a “50/50” chance that Lopez would be confirmed as Environment Secretary given the strong opposition from the CA and various sectors.
The neophyte senator said that Lopez’s confirmation seemed like the “longest” confirmation hearing for a Secretary. Hearings have been suspended twice and bypassed once.
Lopez, who is currently on an official trip abroad, had to face over 20 oppositors who were against her decision to close and suspend several mining operations in previous CA hearings on her appointment.
Instead of having a closed-door caucus with the CA panel, Pacquiao called for a meeting to discuss Lopez’s nomination.
Pacquiao invited Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, co-chair of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), to speak on the council’s role in advising the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on matters such as allowing mine closures.
According to Dominguez, the MICC acts as an advisory body for the DENR but it is still up to the DENR to make the final policy decisions.
He said that Lopez failed to follow due process by ordering the mine closures and suspensions as she did not allegedly consult with concerned government agencies.
Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, for his part, said the potential impact of mine closures is estimated at PHP 821 million worth of losses.
Agabin said that as per his knowledge, the closure of the mines have not yet been enforced.
Dominguez clarified that he had no spat with Lopez despite the latter’s questioning the review and that he remained part of the team.
Pacquiao, however, said that Lopez will still be given a chance to review and air her side in the next CA hearing in May.
“We adjourned the meeting so that on May, when we come back (from recess), we will open the hearing and give her time, send her a copy of this meeting so that she can review,” Pacquiao said.
“On May, I will give her time to respond,” he added.
Saying he is also an environmental advocate, Pacquiao said that as chairman of the committee, he would not show bias and give time for Lopez as well as oppositors to speak. (PNA) LAM/ANP