SURIGAO del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Sunday tagged as a “ghost” the mine audit conducted by Environment Secretary Regina Lopez for not revealing to the public, to Congress and even to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau her findings up to now.
He said the audit was done by “dubious characters,” hence making the results “seriously flawed.”
In a recent hearing of the House committee on good government and public accountability led by Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, Barbers said he was shocked to find that, until now, “Lopez was keeping the audit results to herself and to a handful of consultants.”
He protested the “secrecy” that surrounded the audit and described as “illegal” the manner the audit was done and Lopez’s rejection of the MGB’s recommendations.
“The audit was done based on perception and not on scientific basis,” Pimentel said.
Barbers said dismissed Environment Undersecretary Leo Jasareno, who was found to be illegally working on very sensitive assignments in the absence of any contract of employment, had revealed that he was in possession of the audit results while new MGB director Mario Luis Jacinto was not even furnished a copy.
When Jasareno revealed in snippets the audit results, Barbers slammed it for grave irreversible errors, rendering the audit seriously flawed.
“At the outset, the membership of the audit team is of doubtful integrity and impartiality, counting among them members of the anti-mining NGO. How can you have an impartial audit from these people?” Barbers said.
Pimentel said the objective of the audit from the start was to close down mines.
He said nowhere in the audit report was the suspension and closure of mines recommended, but Lopez disregarded the MGB findings and closed down 23 mining firms and canceled 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements.
“The composition of the audit team was illegal. The name of the nongovernment organization alone, the Alyansa Tigil Mina, suggests that its agenda is to stop mining operations,” Pimentel said.
“Then they included the priests. All priests are anti-mining. What do they know about mining? They are not experts, they knew nothing about the technicality of mining. So what is their business being in the audit team?”
Barbers added: “Instead of putting independent, highly trained technical people like geologists and mining engineers who are not from the DENR, the secretary appointed people of dubious character and with zero knowledge of mining, that is why we now have an audit the results of which are suspect. Even corruption may have set in.’’
“Most suspicious of all, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau was not at all furnished a copy of the audit. How incredible! How can Undersecretary Jacinto know and review the findings if he was not courteously furnished a copy? Remember that the MGB is the Bureau in-charge of all mining operations in the country. Highly suspicious indeed.”
Barbers said the “most glaring error of all” was the different versions of the audit being distributed to the mining companies.
“Some of them got two different versions, one informing them that their companies are not suspended or closed and they may continue their operations, and another version telling them that their companies were ordered closed. So now they are in a quandary on what to do. So which version is the official one?” Barbers said.