MANILA, April 17 (Reuters) - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has reappointed the environment minister who wants more than half of the country’s mines shut, but the official said on Monday she was unsure if lawmakers would allow her to keep the job.
Lawmakers making up the powerful Commission on Appointments deferred a decision to confirm or reject the appointment of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez before Congress headed into a recess from March 18.
Lopez’ decision in February to shut or suspend 26 of 41 operating mines to protect watersheds in the world’s top nickel ore supplier has raised concerns of supply disruptions and boosted global nickel prices.
Lopez, who faces the panel again when Congress’ session resumes in May, said last month she was worried because some panel members had relatives with links to the mining sector.
In the Philippines, confirmation hearings can take place long after ministers start work. Lopez has been in Duterte’s cabinet for 10 months despite being bypassed by the appointments panel.
The panel again failed to reach a decision in March on her case, saying it needed more information.
If rejected by the panel, Lopez cannot be reappointed.
Asked about her chances of being confirmed, Lopez told local journalists on Monday: “I don’t know. I’m not confident at all. Politics is very dirty.”
Several mine operators have appealed against Lopez’s closure and suspension orders and a second review of operations of the affected mines has been planned.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has defended a plan to scrutinise Lopez’s closure orders, warning of potentially costly lawsuits by affected mining firms.
Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz, editing by David Evans