Dominguez: There was 'failure' of due process in mining audit
MANILA, Philippines – Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on Tuesday, March 14, lamented there was "some kind of failure in the charge of due process" when Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the closure or suspension of 28 mining sites in the country.
"The [Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines] representative at that time very clearly stated that they were not consulted at all, so it's our job to make sure the consultations happen," Dominguez told the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Tuesday.
ULAP is a member of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) of which Dominguez and Lopez are co-chairs. (READ: Review of DENR mining closures finished in 3 months – Dominguez)
"Secondly, the [Department of Labor and Employment], they said they were not consulted, I believe [the Department of Social Welfare and Development] also said that they were not consulted. So I think there was some kind of failure in the charge of due process," the finance chief added.
The CA invited Dominguez as a resource person for its meeting on Tuesday, after Lopez mentioned the MICC during the 2nd day of her confirmation hearing last March 9.
Lopez then told the powerful body that she feels the P50-million cost of the MICC review "is a usurpation of a DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) mandate."
Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin told the CA on Tuesday that the P50 million will be used to review all 311 operating mines in the Philippines, and not just the 28 mines that were shut down or suspended. He added that the review is pursuant to Executive Order 79 series of 2012.
"If we need additional budget, we will get additional. It just so happened that since there are 28 audits done, we agreed to start with the 28 mines affected," he added.
Asked if the environment secretary can decide to close or suspend a mine without having to consult the MICC, Dominguez said yes.
"But in my understanding, since I was also secretary of natural resources in the past and have some experience with mine closures, I just want to say that the usual process is if the mine is found to have violated a certain regulation, and notice is provided to the mine by the DENR, and discussions are started as to how serious the violations are and what are the potential penalties," he explained.
Dominguez said it's part of procedure and due process to provide mines an opportunity to discuss the problem and come to "some kind of agreement" with the environment department to remediate the problem.
He said his job is "to make sure the deficiencies of others are covered."
"I told this to the MICC, as well as the secretary-designate, that I'm here to... help you to make sure that when you close a mine, it stays closed. Because if the process was not followed, and they go to make an appeal with the courts or the Office of the President, and if due process was not followed, the mine might open again."
In addition, Dominguez said he wants to make sure "as a responsible member of the Cabinet" that "potential liabilities of the government are covered."
Dominguez also summarized for the CA his March 7 comment to the memorandum that Lopez gave the President on March 6:
- The President directed the MICC to reconvene, to discuss the DENR audit and its recommendation to suspend and close selected mining companies. It's the President's order.
- The creation of a multi-stakeholder team to review the mining operations was unanimously approved by the MICC.
- The MICC has the legal authority to conduct a review of the mining operations.
- The DENR audit was not a multi-stakeholder approach.
- The P50-million budget for the review is reasonable and necessitated by the actions of the DENR secretary.
Agabin said the MICC's review will be holistic in approach, and will cover the following areas: technical, legal, social, environmental, and economic.
The CA is poised to bypass the appointment of Lopez as environment secretary, since the commission wants to give her time to answer the issues raised on Tuesday by Dominguez. – Rappler.com