Cimatu on Duterte SONA: DENR to act vs destructive mining
MANILA — Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has assured the public that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources under his watch is still “one with the President in his firm desire to rid the country of abusive and irresponsible miners that are concerned only with profits and care nothing for the environment and our countrymen.”
This, after President Duterte dedicated on Monday, a large chunk of his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) to chastise and issue warnings against environmentally destructive mining operations.
Duterte seemingly echoed statements made by Cimatu’s predecessor Gina Lopez, a known anti-mining advocate, over her stint the past year as environment secretary.
“Responsible, regulated and sustainable development is what we advocate and require. The protection of the environment must be made a priority ahead of mining…And this policy is non-negotiable….I am warning all mining operations and contractors to refrain from the unbridled and irresponsible destruction of our watersheds, forests and aquatic resources,” Duterte said.
Lopez, Duterte’s first choice as environment secretary, failed to secure confirmation from the Commission of Appointments after she had ordered the closure and suspension of 28 mining operations across the country. Duterte appointed Cimatu, the former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in her stead.
To date, none of Lopez’ orders have actually been implemented pending appeals filed mostly in the Office of the President. Neither has Cimatu acted on appeals filed in the DENR.
But Cimatu has assured the public DENR will be strict in its enforcement of mining and environmental regulations.
Aside from fines, suspensions, and closures, Cimatu said that officials of mining firms found violating laws would “suffer the penalty of imprisonment at the discretion of the court.”
“Mining in the Philippines can only be responsible if the development of the country’s mineral resources will be on the basis of technical feasibility, environmental sustainability, cultural and social acceptability, and financial viability. The absence of one will not render a mining project as responsible,” Cimatu said.
Earlier, Cimatu earned criticisms from green groups wary of lax rules on extractive industries when he issued an order decentralizing the issuance of environmental compliance certificates back to regional DENR offices, overturning an order by Lopez to centralize ECC issuance to the office of the environment secretary. SFM