Cimatu takes DENR helm, promises to listen to all
Acknowledging that he is “wading into a field far removed from soldiery,” former military chief Roy Cimatu took the helm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday with the promise to listen to all voices.
“Essentially, if mining companies follow [the law and regulations], we won’t do anything to them,” Cimatu said in contrast to the stance of his predecessor Gina Lopez, who was rejected by the congressional Commission on Appointments.
“You have to follow the law, you have to follow the safeguards for extracting minerals,” Cimatu said during a turnover ceremony at the DENR head office in Quezon City.
Responding to criticism that he lacked experience in environment management, Cimatu asked the public to give him time to study the agency’s problems.
“You will please excuse me if I ask that I be given time to scan and study the terrain in an agency which impacts considerably on our very life as a people, and the future of our beloved Philippines,” Cimatu said.
“I will try to do my best as President Duterte’s point man in the daunting task of protecting our environment in all its forms … while promoting the wise and proper use of these God-given resources for the public good.”
Cimatu promised to “listen to all the voices out there and make full use of our powers and resources to ensure that these various concerns, some of which oftentimes clash, will be properly and judiciously addressed.”
Cimatu also asked DENR employees to work as a team.
“Please help me learn the ropes and earn your respect. We are all in this together,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, President Duterte himself said he ordered Cimatu to protect the environment while being mindful of the fact that the law allows mining.
Mr. Duterte said he told Cimatu that there would never be a time that he would call him for any favor for anybody.
“All that I ask of you is just to be true to yourself, to be true to your country and protect the environment. But remember, there is a mining law and we cannot altogether banish it,” Mr. Duterte said.
Unless the mining law is erased from the statute books, extraction operations have to be regulated and allowed, he said.
“We want stricter measures. But there’s the mining law, so what can we do? The law itself allows it. And if you just disregard it, that will be an impeachable offense,” he added.
Mr. Duterte also said on Wednesday that there was no new government post for Lopez at this time.
Cimatu revealed that one of his first official acts would be to go to Mindanao next week to check the compliance of mining firms with applicable environmental laws.
But Mines and Geosciences Bureau director Mario Luis Jacinto clarified that the closure or suspension orders Lopez issued against some mines are still in effect until they are overturned.
“The issuances are presumed legal. The issuances will stand unless amended, revised or revoked,” Jacinto said.
“We will definitely stick to applicable laws and regulations. The efforts will be made sure that those granted permits will be compliant because that is the way to go,” Jacinto said.
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