MANILA – The environment secretary of the Philippines, who ordered the closure of more than half the mines in the country, lost her position on Wednesday after legislators rejected her appointment.
The decision to reject the appointment of Gina Lopez by the Commission on Appointments – a Congress body that confirms certain appointments made by the president – has been criticized by ecologists but celebrated by the mining sector.
The CA committee on environment chaired by the senator and boxer Manny Pacquiao communicated the decision against Lopez following a vote by the 15 members of the body.
Lopez, an ecologist who was appointed environment secretary by President Rodrigo Duterte, was removed from her position after 10 months, during which she focused on cracking down on allegedly unsafe mining practices.
In February, the minister vowed to shut down 23 of the 41 mines operating in the country and to terminate 75 of the 311 contracts with mining companies for polluting aquifers and causing harm to local communities – a decision that was publicly backed by Duterte.
After learning of the decision, Lopez held a press conference during which she accused the CA of violating the people’s right to a clean and healthy environment.
It is unusual for the CA, made up of senators and legislators, to reject the appointment of a minister without proper justification.
However, Lopez is the second minister in the Duterte administration to be rejected by the Commission, after the same fate befell foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay in March.
The Philippines is the world’s largest exporter of nickel and has 27 nickel mines, which would have gone down to just eight if Lopez’s proposal would have been implemented.