By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor-in-Chief
MANILA– Despite the support of President Rodrigo Duterte as well as Senator Manny Pacquiao, the Commission on Appointments (CA) voted to reject Gina Lopez’s appointment as Environment Secretary on Wednesday, May 3.
TheCA had twice bypassed Lopez and the Wednesday session was make-or-break for her. Under the law, no Cabinet appointee can be bypassed for a third time.
The senators of the minority Liberal Party all voted for Lopez, as did administration alliesSenators Loren Legarda, JV Ejercito and Tito Sotto. But the bi-partisan support still fell short of the majority needed by Lopez to be approved by the CA.
Days before Lopez faced the CA for the final time, Pacquiao said he felt she had “a50-50 chance” of making it.
The professional boxer also serves as head of the Senate environment committee, whose recommendation to the CA would normally have given Lopez a winning edge in being approved.
However, a strong lobby from the mining industry which had been angered by Lopez’s actions as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources doomed her chances.
Earlier this year, Lopez ordered the closure or suspension of mining operations nationwide. She also cancelled mineral production sharing agreements.
Her most controversial order was for all suspended mining companies to give P2 million for every hectare of farmland affected by their operations.
Aside from the mining industry, Lopez had also crossed swords with two fellow Cabinet secretaries.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez refused to support Lopez’s appointment as DENR secretary when he testified before the CA.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also blocked her order requiring the mining companies to pay P2 million, saying Lopez had no authority to charge what was tantamount to a tax or levy.
Yet another order that made Lopez even more unpopular was her ban on “prospective”open pit mines in the country.
Opponents said that Lopez was placing the jobs of millions of Filipinos at risk with her anti-mining stance.
Lopez is the second Cabinet secretary rejected by the CA, with Perfecto Yasay earlier getting the thumbs down after it was discovered that he had previously been granted US citizenship.
One of the more controversial members of the Duterte Cabinet, Lopez is part of the clan that controls media giant ABS-CBN, with whom the president has been at odds with lately. She, however, was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company.