The confirmation hearing of DENR Secretary-Designate Regina “Gina” Lopez in front of the Commission on Appointments is a trending issue. The Commission on Appointments gave audience to oppositors of Ms. Lopez’s appointment. One of the oppositors, Dr. Carlo Arcilla, NIGS Professor and mining consultant, primarily based his opposition of Ms. Lopez’s appointment as DENR Secretary on the question of competence. The core of his speech was the conflict of interest that arises between Ms. Lopez’s commitment to her family’s business and Ms. Lopez’s mandate as Secretary.
Discussions shifted towards the unfair issuance of show-cause orders to 75 mining companies due their “open-pit mining activities in watersheds.” Members of the Commission also queried Ms. Lopez on her technical knowledge of mining issues and terminologies: requirements for the issuance of MPSA’s. definition of watersheds specifically in mining activities, and mandates of the Secretary according to the Mining Act. Dr. Arcilla argued that if Ms. Lopez’s definition of “open-pit mining in watersheds” is applied, the construction industry will die because of closure of quarrying activities. In addition, Dr. Arcilla cited that the Mining Act prohibits mining activities in critical and proclaimed watersheds. Ms. Lopez passionately continued to defend her stance: watersheds must be off-limits to open-pit mines that endanger sustainable development.
I verified the Mining Act whie watching the telecast to confirm Ms. Lopez’s claims that the DENR Secretary has the power to identify additional watersheds for prohibition of mining activities: it does not. The passion of Ms. Lopez must be backed by technical knowledge by at least her consultants.