The Department of Finance criticized on Wednesday the move of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to question the legality of the multiparty Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC).
Michael Varcas/File
MICC has authority to review mine audit, DOF reminds Lopez
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - April 19, 2017 - 8:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — Further suggesting deep divisions in the president’s Cabinet, the Department of Finance on Wednesday criticized the move of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to question the legal basis of the review by the interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council of her department’s order to either suspend or close several mining operations in the country.

DOF Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said they were flustered why Lopez was questioning the legality of MICC even if she herself agreed to the multiagency review and signed the MICC resolution that paved the way for it.

Agabin said that it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who directed the DOF and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to convene the MICC to comprehensively discuss the results of the DENR audit that resulted in the closure of 23 mines and the suspension of the operations of five others.

Aside from these two agencies, the solicitor general, the chief presidential legal counsel and the secretary of justice were invited to the review.

“Hence, there was no usurpation of the DENR’s functions by the MICC because the president himself has ordered that the results of the DENR audit be discussed and reviewed, which is within the powers of the MICC,” he said.

The DOF undersecretary also criticized the DENR audit because it was not a multiparty review as required by Executive Order 79, which mandates the creation of MICC. He said that the audit involved only four personnel from the DENR and a third-party expert.

“Section 3 of that DENR memo states that its audit team was composed only of a third-party expert and one officer each from the DENR Central Office, its Regional Office, Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Environmental Management Bureau,” the undersecretary said.

None of the 20 departments and agencies represented in the MICC was consulted by the Environment department.

“In fact, even Isabela Vice Governor Antonio Albano, representing the ULAP (Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines), disclosed during the last MICC meeting on March 3 that the LGUs (local government units) of the areas hosting the affected mines were never consulted by the DENR,” Agabin said.

Agabin said the members of the MICC reached an agreement to conduct a multistakeholder review of the mining operations in the country as he noted that even Christian Monsod, the personal lawyer of Lopez, participated actively in the drafting of the resolution for this. The DOF undersecretary said that Lopez herself was present during this meeting.

He said that Lopez and DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the co-chairpersons of the MICC, signed Resolution 6 calling for this multistakeholder review.

Agabin added that Lopez deputy DENR Undersecretary Maria Paz Luna, who attended the subsequent MICC and its Technical Working Group (TWG) meetings, even volunteered to make available for review the DENR audit report last year that served as the basis of the closure and suspension orders. Luna is the DENR’s undersecretary for legal affairs.

He also defended the P50-million budget requested by the MICC from the Budget Department.

Agabi said: “This amount is reasonable and justified, given that the task involves not only the 28 affected mines ordered either closed or suspended by Lopez, but all 311 mining contracts across the country.”

Agabin said that the framework, process and methodology of the review were approved by the MICC in its Feb. 20 meeting in which Luna provided several inputs and agreed to the conduct of the review and its framework.

“In fact, it was Undersecretary Luna who volunteered to make the audit report done by the DENR on the 28 mining operations available to the multistakeholder technical review teams, and joined the other members of the TWG in adopting the framework for the review,” Agabin said.

Agabin said this framework was again presented in another meeting on March 3, and Luna was again present and provided input on this.

GINA LOPEZ MICC MINING AUDIT MINING REVIEW
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