Acting DENR Sec. Cimatu: Follow safeguards for extracting minerals

(CNN Philippines, May 10) — Acting Secretary Roy Cimatu said on his first day as Environment chief that mining companies must follow safeguards for extracting minerals as he would be checking on this in Mindanao by next week.

"We have to follow the safeguards for extracting minerals. If you look at the mining companies that are operational now, 'yun ang [that is] responsible mining; they're allowed to operate!" Cimatu said in an ambush interview during the formal turnover of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) helm Wednesday.

Cimatu reiterated that the closure order of mines would have not been issued if mining companies complied with the law.

"Nandiyan na lahat dito sa DENR. 'Yung mga iba lang hindi lang sumusunod," Cimatu added.

[Translation: The DENR already has all the necessary laws. It's just that other mining companies do not follow them.]

The retired AFP general was appointed as acting secretary by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, after former Environment chief Gina Lopez's appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments (CA).

In a speech before leaving for Cambodia, President Duterte said Cimatu must keep in mind the limits of mining regulations.

"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 all together banish it," Duterte said.

Former Environment secretary Gina Lopez was under fire from members of the CA after canceling of 75 mining contracts in February.

Lopez turns over DENR helm to Cimatu

Cimatu said that the appointment caught him by surprise.

"I had thought that, as General Douglas MacArthur once said of old soldiers, I will just fade away. But as fate would have it, here I am being conscripted yet again by a friend of long standing to serve our country," Cimatu said.

Read more: Ex-AFP chief Cimatu appointed as acting Environment secretary

Cimatu told DENR officials that he intended to listen to all of the concerns from various sectors.

He added that he had heard lectures on the environment from Sen. Loren Legarda, and had engaged with Lopez in a crash course on environmental protection.

Lopez, who facilitated the turnover, said she had discused  with the retired general about offering her services.

"My house is not far from here, so I'm committing, that I will continue to help you from the private sector," Lopez told Cimatu.

Read more: Gina Lopez: New DENR chief 'may have to shed military paradigms'

In a speech, Lopez also thanked the DENR officials she had worked with.

"I would like to express to my DENR family that it has been my honor and privilege to have worked with you in these past ten months," Lopez said.

She reminded that the DENR was well-positioned to bring the country out of poverty.