by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Feb 10, 2017
The Philippines will review an order to close two dozen mines, the government said Friday, after the decision sparked concern over jobs losses and the economy.
The environment ministry last week ordered the closure of 23 of the country's large-scale mines and the suspension of five others after a government investigation found they had illegally cut down trees and polluted rivers.
The Philippines is the world's top supplier of nickel ore and the main exporter to China. The closure order caused a rise in global nickel prices and a decline in local mining shares.
A council headed by the environment and finance ministers met on Thursday and said it would create a "multi-stakeholder review" of the order.
"(The council shall) advise the (environment ministry) on the performance of existing mining operations in consultation with local government units," a resolution issued by the council stated.
The closures and suspensions were the result of a government audit started last year after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office and appointed a staunch mining critic, Gina Lopez, as environment secretary.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez had expressed concern about the effect of Lopez's order on local government tax revenues and the 1.2 million people the mining industry said it employs.
The order would cost local government units 650 million pesos ($13 million) in annual revenues, according to the finance ministry.
But Lopez insisted on Friday the council's review would just be "recommendatory" and insisted she would not reverse her decision.
She added the review was meant "to appease the miners".
"I still make the decisions and my decision is no mining in watersheds. I don't see that as changing because water is life," Lopez told ABS-CBN television.
Lopez however said her order could be appealed before Duterte and would only be enforced once he made a decision.
Duterte, who enjoys wide popular support, said last week that he backed Lopez's directive.
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