Panelo: Cabinet trying to 'protect' Lopez from mining companies
MANILA, Philippines – Dispelling notions of a rift between Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Cabinet members only want to "protect" Lopez from possible accusations of mining companies.
Panelo admitted there was some "arguing" about the closure of mining operations in the 12th Cabinet meeting but said officials like Dominguez also had Lopez's interests in mind.
Panelo recalled telling Lopez, "Secretary Sonny just wants to protect you so that when the mining company sues you, you're going to win."
"So Sonny Dominguez is just very protective of her," he told Palace reporters on Tuesday, February 14, in a mix of English and Filipino.
"She didn't understand it initially but now she realizes that all of us are trying to protect her," he added.
After the Cabinet meeting, Malacañang released a statement saying the Cabinet emphasized the importance of following "due process" in implementing the order of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to close 23 mining operations nationwide.
On February 9, Lopez and Dominguez met with the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), in which both agreed to follow due process.
Lopez has insisted from the start that she followed the proper guidelines "every single step of the way," even as some mining companies said they were caught off guard by the closure orders.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) formally opposed Lopez's appointment as Environment Secretary. The group, representing the country's major mining firms, submitted its position paper to the Commission of Appointments (CA) on Monday, February 13.
The group said it thinks it will never have a "productive and rational dialogue" with Lopez.
On Tuesday, the DENR chief announced the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) in watersheds all over the country.
Unfazed by the criticism, Lopez said she will not change her position just to please the powerful CA.
Lopez strongly opposes open pit mining and mining inside watersheds. (READ: Green vs greed? The Lopezes' new family saga)
Duterte, while close friends with Dominguez, has said he continues to support the DENR chief. – Rappler.com