MANILA – Philippine lawmakers on Tuesday deferred a decision to confirm or reject an ardent environmentalist as the country’s resources minister, stoking uncertainty over the outlook for mining in the world’s top nickel ore supplier.
Regina Lopez last month ordered the closure of more than half the nation’s mines to protect watersheds, a bold step backed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who has said the Philippines can survive without mining.
Duterte appointed Lopez in June, but confirmation hearings in the country usually take place long after ministers start work and members of Congress have this month been debating whether to confirm Lopez in her role.
On Tuesday, they opted to postpone a vote, saying they were unable to reach a clear decision without more information. Under government procedures, Duterte will need to reappoint Lopez, with further confirmation hearings expected in May, when Congress returns from a recess that begins on March 18.
“In May, we will re-open the hearing. We still have a lot of questions for her,” Senator Manny Pacquiao told reporters after a televised meeting with other lawmakers on Lopez’s appointment.
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