MANILA, April 20 (Reuters) - The Philippine environment minister said she has been given the green light by President Rodrigo Duterte to work with communist rebel fighters to help rehabilitate and develop the country's mining areas.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez is clashing with another member of the Cabinet after Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea counteracted her order for mining companies to put up a trust fund before they can remove and export ore stockpiles.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea had asked Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez to stop requiring suspended mining companies to have an additional trust fund of P2 million per hectare before they could be allowed to export their stockpiles.
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"What I've seen with the NPA, they just really want to get people out of poverty, they're really not bad people", Lopez told reporters on Thursday. "We are with her and recommend she work instead with the real champions of change in the area.our ever reliable LGUs, your armed forces, the police, our concerned government agencies and recognized IP (indigenous peoples) leaders", Padilla said in a statement. "We must come from the same page".
"It is directly related to the environment, agrarian reform and rural development now being negotiated under the substantive item", he said in a Facebook post, inviting her to attend the next round of peace talks, brokered by Norway, in the Netherlands next month.
Duterte's spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said however "that needs to be verified" when asked to confirm the plan.
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Miners were unsure whether Lopez's strategy would work.
They said her directive is contrary to the previously imposed implementing rules and regulations, as the new trust fund is separate from and on top of the existing rehabilitation trust fund set up by the government, as required under the Philippine Mining Act.
The Philippine Army did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In February, she ordered the closure of 22 of the Southeast Asian nation's 41 mines and later cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines. We have to amend the law. For instance, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), which is composed of the country's biggest miners, said they will contest the said memorandum order for being redundant. "I don't want to fight but when I'm giving an order to stop and you're going against me, then I will really fight", she said. Hearings on her confirmation resume on May 2.
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