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Miners optimistic with appointment of new DENR chief Roy Cimatu

President Rodrigo Duterte discusses matters with some members of his delegation including Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Special Envoy to the Middle East Roy Cimatu while waiting for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Minister of Labor and Social Development Dr. Ali Bin Nasser Al-Ghafis at the King Saud Guest Palace in Riyadh on April 11, 2017. Albert Alcain/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s mining industry is optimistic with the appointment of former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Roy Cimatu as the new environment chief.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ended speculations on who might replace rejected Gina Lopez after he announced that the new Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary will be Cimatu.

While the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) admitted that the new head is unexpected, the country’s mining group is upbeat on how Cimatu would lead the department.

"It is quite unexpected because his name did not really surface last week. But as with any secretary, we will give him the benefit of the doubt," COMP Legal and Policy Vice President Ronald Recidoro told The STAR.

"We will reach out to him and cooperate with him with whatever he plans for the industry. We hope to see him within the week, or as soon as he is available," he added.

The chamber is hopeful that the appointment will answer the industry’s call for a DENR chief who has a balanced appreciation for environmental protection and natural resources management.

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Furthermore, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Mario Luis Jacinto assured the public that Cimatu is a good choice for the DENR post.

To recall, Jacinto was one of the names that surfaced for the position. He is also the first choice of the chamber to lead the department.

READ: Miners defend their DENR chief pick vs Gina Lopez tirades

"He is good, the president knows him well because he also served in Mindanao. He is a good official for the DENR," Jacinto told The STAR in a separate interview.

Jacinto expressed confidence on Cimatu and emphasized that the DENR-attached agency will support the new chief.

"We will follow the directions to be set by General Cimatu. He will be carrying DENR and hopefully it will be toward the direction of responsible mining in the country," he said.

"As a military member, I know he plans really well. We expect that his programs and plans to be put into place will be well-thought of and with really clear directions," Jacinto added.

Meanwhile, other DENR officials are already preparing for the transition within the week, as well as the reports that need to be reviewed.

These include the closure and suspension of some 28 mining companies, cancellation of 75 more mining contracts, the banning of the open pit mining method nationwide and the collection of unexplainable fees.

"The staff at the Office of the Secretary are ready for transition. We will just await for his instructions," Environment Undersecretary Maria Paz Luna said.

On the other hand, green group Alyansa Tigil Mina said Cimatu might not be as open to civil society engagement compared to Lopez.

"He has a steep learning curve to learn about the green agenda. He will probably be not as grounded on community struggles and resistance based on environmental issues. He might be technically competent as a manager, but we really don't know if he has environmental protection ingrained in him," the group said.

"He has a lot to prove that he can champion the poor and marginalized sectors against destructive mining companies. We hope that he was not appointed to be a simple ‘yes man’ of mining companies and the corrupt government officials," it added.

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