ENVIRONMENT Secretary Gina Lopez said Friday she stayed true to President Rodrigo Duterte's order of observing due process in conducting the audit of mining projects, leading to her order of closure to 23 of them and suspension of five others.

Lopez made the statement as the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, which she and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III co-chaired, has decided to create a multi-stakeholder review of the mining sites which were ordered to be closed or suspended for alleged violations of mining laws.

"The mining audit done by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources meticulously observed due process," she said in a statement.

She explained that when the DENR conducted the first audit of the mining firms last year, the 16 teams who conducted the audit were well-represented, with some of the 10-12 coming from the different bureaus of the Department, some of the members coming from other concerned government agencies, the Social Action Center of the local parishes, and the civil society organizations.

She also said that technical experts from the different government offices who have been invited to conduct the audit all abide in the standards of truth, service, and the common good.

"This means they knew what they were doing and have followed the due legal process," Lopez said.

She also cited that the DENR based the checklist of the criteria for the audit on the requirements of the different mining and environmental laws.

A cross-audit was also done, she said, adding this means that the auditors who reviewed one site have come from a different region.

"During every audit, the teams also conducted entry and exit conferences to discuss the methodology, procedure and the result of the audit," she said.

She explained the DENR also gave the companies seven days to respond to the results of the audit, providing a leeway for them to clear the issues that were raised.

"From their responses to the ‘show-cause orders’, further review was conducted by a technical review committee for five months before releasing the results, ensuring that we followed the process meticulously," she said.

Lopez said she also personally visited the mining sites, talked to the people and then decided in the context of the common good.

"We followed all necessary procedures and there are documents to show. I stayed true to the President's directive and sought to help the people who are continuously marginalized by destructive mining. It’s the government’s duty to protect the country’s resources and to make sure that these resources benefit the people." (SDR/SunStar Philippines)