Duterte Backs Environment Chief as Congress Weighs Endorsement

  • Gina Lopez has put forward ‘good case,’ Philippine leader says
  • Commission on Appointments sets Lopez hearing for Wednesday

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has thrown his weight behind his pick for environment secretary, who wants to shutter more than half of the country’s metal mines, saying Gina Lopez has put forward a good case and lawmakers should consider confirming her appointment.

The Commission on Appointments should “look at it closely, and she would show you how devastated the environment is,” Duterte said in a speech at the presidential palace in Manila on Tuesday. He was referring to the commission’s decision on Lopez’s appointment just a day ahead of a hearing by the group on whether members will endorse her cabinet role.

For a QuickTake Q&A on the country’s mines crisis, click here.

The Philippines is the top nickel shipper and Lopez’s orders to close or suspend 28 metal mines have threatened to curtail supplies, boosting prices. Local miners have banded together to resist Lopez’s orders, and the industry is campaigning to have the commission reject her appointment. Duterte’s support for Lopez may prove pivotal as she presses on with her campaign.

“Hopefully, we can strike a happy compromise, but more on the side of protecting the public interest,” Duterte said, adding Lopez’s cries on the environment couldn’t be ignored and calling for protocols to control mine practices. The president blamed destruction of mountains not on big companies but on “every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to get rich.”

In the Philippines, the Commission on Appointments vets cabinet selections made by the president. It’s delayed a hearing on Lopez’s status several times after she was appointed to the role last year. Lopez herself has questioned how long she’ll be able to last.

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