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FILE PHOTO: Philippine Environment Secretary Regina Lopez speaks during her Congressional confirmation hearing at Senate in Manila, Philippines May 2, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File photo


MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine lawmakers on Wednesday rejected the appointment of Regina Lopez as environment minister, 10 months into her term in office during which she ordered the closure of more than half the country's mines and banned open-pit mining.

Lopez's rejection by the Commission on Appointments is final, meaning President Rodrigo Duterte must nominate a new minister. Lopez riled the mining sector with the crackdown on mines though she was largely supported by Duterte. She is the second member of Duterte's cabinet dismissed by Congress.

Lawmakers voted 16-8 in favour of removing Lopez.

Senator Manny Pacquiao, head of the environment committee that held the hearings to determine Lopez's qualifications, announced the outcome "with sadness in my heart."

"I believe in my heart no matter how several big people may be against Gina, she will always stand on what is morally and environmentally right and righteous," said Pacquiao, referring to Lopez by her nickname.

Pacquiao said the deliberation was "perhaps the longest, dramatic and most watched by all Filipinos from all walks of life."

Minutes before the announcement, Congressman Ronaldo Zamora told Reuters about the outcome of the vote.

Lopez angered the country's miners after ordering the closure in February of 22 of the country's 41 operating mines and the cancellation of dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines to protect water resources. Last week, she banned open-pit mining.

Cabinet ministers in the Philippines must be confirmed by Congress, though voting often takes long after they are appointed.

To view graphic on Philippine mine closures, click on http://tmsnrt.rs/2kCftpe

(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr. and Enrico dela Cruz; Additional reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger)

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