MANILA – Philippine lawmakers ended a 10-month crusade by Environment Secretary Regina Lopez on Wednesday, forcing out the eco-warrior whose mining crackdown was backed by the president but led to demands for her removal by miners.
The rejection of Lopez by the Commission on Appointments is final and a mining lobby group immediately said it would seek a reversal of her measures, while President Rodrigo Duterte’s office said he would respect the decision.
Lopez characterized her campaign as a fight against greedy miners who were threatening public health and damaging nature in a country better known for mountains and beaches than resources. The 63-year-old daughter of a media mogul who left her privileged Philippine life behind when she was a teenager, had ordered the closure of more than half of the mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier and last week banned open-pit mining.
“It is the constitutional right of every Filipino to a clean and healthy environment. It was a dream and a promise we had for the country and it is unfortunate that business interests have in fact run the day,” Lopez, who at 18 took a vow of celibacy and became a yoga teacher and missionary in Africa, told reporters.
Duterte picked Lopez because of her record as an activist dedicated to the poor, whose previous initiatives had included reforestation, safeguarding areas of biodiversity and cleaning up the Pasig river that flows through Manila.
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