The Daily Manila Shimbun


Environment secretary claims she was offered monthly P6 million bribe by miner

February 9, 2017

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez admitted on Thursday that there was an attempt by a mining firm to bribe her with P6 million a month.

Lopez disclosed this during a press briefing in Malacanang where she explained why she had to order the closure of 23 mining projects and suspend five others due to violation of environmental laws and for being on the watershed areas.

"I have a friend (who) went to me and then she said Gina, 'if you sign this paper, the person owns the mine, (she) didn't tell me, will give me six million (pesos) a month. Six million (pesos) a month, wow," Lopez said. She did not reveal the intermediary or company’s name.

An environmental protection advocate before she entered government, Lopez said only a "miracle" could change her decision from allowing mining sites to operate in watershed areas.

"It will make a miracle to convince me to allow mining in watershed areas. Watershed should be off limits," she said.

The 23 mining sites which she ordered to be closed are still operating.

According to Lopez, her order would be executory once the Office of the President approves it. The affected mining companies could make an appeal before President Rodrigo Duterte.

If Duterte gives his nod on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' recommendations, then the order would be executory, while the mining firms could question the decision before the court, Lopez explained.

The government’s economic managers say 1.2 million persons will be affected by the closure or suspension of the mines.

“The President and his Cabinet collectively decided to observe due process with regard to the mining issue,” said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

Abella said the finance department and the DENR will do further discussions as concerned government agencies under the Mining Industry Coordinating Council. Lopez debunked the claims of the mining companies that they were not informed of the DENR's action.

"How did they reply to show cause if they didn't receive it?," she said, recalling her office issued show cause order to the mining firms and asked them to explain why their operations should not be closed or suspended.

Lopez blamed the corruption in the DENR and its attached agency, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, why mining companies continued to violate laws.

"Some of them are corrupt unfortunately. I'm cleaning up the work force...if MGB and DENR people were really honest, this wouldn't have happened," she said.

She also cited that there were DENR officials who have titled lands for themselves in those areas they regulate and there was an instance that she asked one of her staff to check in one mining project because she failed to see it when she flew over in the area.

"The miner came back to me the next day. He said he was asked for a bribe of 30 million (pesos by the staff)," she said.

Asked if she would allow the operation of Tampakan project, considered as one of the largest underdeveloped copper-gold deposits in the world, Lopez said, "I am not in favor of it at all. It's not even gonna be an economic problem. I think it's gonna be a peace problem."

Tampakan, located in four provinces in Mindanao, namely Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Davao del Sur, is being operated by the Sagittarius Mines, Inc. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III was allegedly one of the shareholders of the company.

Asked to confirm if Dominguez's family has stake with the Tampakan mining project, finance department spokesperson Paula Alvarez said, "Secretary Dominguez has no interest in Tampakan or any other mining enterprises."

Lopez acknowledged she did not follow the recommendations of the team that conducted an audit on the 41 metallic mining projects, including the 23 which she ordered to be closed.

She said the recommendations were for mining firms to be suspended and fined. But Lopez said she is assuming full responsibility.

The mining projects ordered to be closed are: Benguet Corporation, Ore Asia Mining and Development Corporation, BenguetCorp Nickel Mines, Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation, LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc., Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp., Emir Minerals Corp., TechIron Mineral Resources, Inc., AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration, Krominco, Inc.;

SinoSteel Philippines H.Y. Mining Corporation, Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation, Wellex Mining Corporation, Libjo Mining Corporation, Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp., ADNAMA Mining Resources Corporation, Claver Mineral Development Corp., Platinum Development Corp. CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corporation, Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation, and Hinatuan Mining Corporation.

Those ordered to be suspended were Berong Nickel Corp., Citinickel Mines and Development Corp., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp., OceanaGold Phils., and Strong Built Mining Development Corporation.

The DENR deferred action on Filminera Resources Corp. Celerina Monte/DMS