Philippine Congress postpones embattled minister’s confirmation hearing – by Manolo Serapio Jr and Enrico Dela Cruz (Reuters U.K. – February 28, 2017)

MANILA: A Philippine legislative hearing set for Wednesday to confirm the appointment of a controversial environment minister who ordered more than half of the country’s mines shut has been postponed following a shakeup in the Senate leadership.

While the hearings are typically a formality carried out long after a minister has started work, the confirmation process for Regina Lopez is much anticipated because of the uproar she has caused in the mining sector, with calls from miners for her to be removed.

Lopez is among just a few of President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointees yet to get the green light from lawmakers.

The crackdown by Lopez, a committed environmentalist long before she joined Duterte’s team, has raised fears that supply of nickel ore from the world’s top exporter may be disrupted, fuelling a rally in global nickel prices.

Lopez on Tuesday suggested her confirmation hearing may be unduly influenced by lawmakers with mining interests. “So I strongly feel that we should not have any individuals there with strong business leanings which will influence and affect the decisions,” she told reporters.

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