* Duterte spokesman says due process must be observed
* Environment minister set to release closure orders
* Miners accuse minister of short-cutting process
(Recasts with Duterte spokesman's statement)
By Enrico Dela Cruz
MANILA, Feb 8 Philippine President Rodrigo
Duterte and his cabinet will give mines facing closure by the
environment ministry a chance to appeal the decision or rectify
any violations, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez has
ordered the closure of 23 of the country's 41 mines, most of
which produce nickel ore, and the suspension of five more due to
violations uncovered during a lengthy environmental audit.
The decision rocked the nickel market as the Philippines is
the world's biggest exporter of nickel ore and angered mining
firms in the country who said the process followed by the
environment minister was neither legal nor fair.
"The president and his cabinet collectively decided to
observe due process with regard to the mining issue,"
presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement on
"Companies affected by mining closures for violations of
environmental laws and regulations will be given the opportunity
to respond or dispute the audit, or make the necessary remedies
to ensure compliance with government standards," he said.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines industry group
welcomed the decision, saying it "gives hope to our mining
communities comprised of the many women and men who rely on the
industry for their living".
The group said it would work closely with the government to
address issues raised "to ensure that a fair and just conclusion
to the mines audit is reached".
Lopez launched an audit of the country's mines in July and
appointed a panel to review its findings. It recommended only
fines and suspensions, sources told Reuters, but the minister
instead ordered 23 mines to shut on Feb. 2.
Earlier on Wednesday, the industry group accused Lopez of
"short-cutting" the audit and decision-making process and said
its members facing penalties had yet to receive any formal
notice from the minister.
"The process ... was not fair, it's not legal. She's
short-cutting the entire thing," Ronald Recidoro, the industry
group's spokesman, said in an interview with ABS-CBN News
Lopez, who presented her decision to cabinet on Tuesday, was
due to release mine closure orders on Wednesday and she also
agreed to publish the panel's recommendations.
Lopez earlier disputed the complaints by the mining industry
group saying she had issued an "omnibus directive" before her
Feb. 2 announcement and her decision was fair and legal.
"Our lawyers have decided (the closure and suspension
orders) should be issued to individual mining companies," Lopez
said in a statement on Wednesday.
(Editing by David Clarke)