Atienza resigns as DENR chief

- Katherine Adraneda -

MANILA, Philippines - Environment Secretary Lito Atienza resigned yesterday to prepare for his campaign for mayor of Manila in the May 2010 elections.

Atienza told a press conference at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that he has submitted his irrevocable resignation to President Arroyo. 

He said that they “mutually agreed” on his move during previous conversations.

Atienza said he endorsed to the President the appointment of a DENR official to be the agency’s officer-in-charge.

“I tendered my resignation from the Cabinet to concentrate my time and effort for the preparation of my campaign,” Atienza said.

“Manila is the inspiration of the country. Manila is the face of the country, the microcosm of the country. I cannot take it, the very, very sorry state of the city now. I must gain back Manila,” he said.

Atienza had previously expressed his intention to stay on as DENR secretary until March when the campaign period for local elections starts.

The Supreme Court (SC) ruled that appointed government officials aspiring to run for the elections need not resign at this point even if he or she has already filed his or her certificate of candidacy (COC), since the campaign period has yet to start in February for national elections, and March for local polls.

Atienza, however, said that he saw the need for him to yield his position in the Cabinet to focus on his mayoralty bid in Manila since it would be unfair to the DENR.

“There is still so much to be done in the DENR, which are all pressing issues. But at the same time, it is also equally important for me to concentrate on my preparations,” Atienza explained.

He hoped that other Cabinet officials running in next year’s election as well as incumbent elected government officials seeking re-election would follow him and resign.

“I saw the requirement and the need to concentrate on preparations for my campaign, to give my full time and effort to really explain to the people of Manila the real issues and gain back Manila,” Atienza said.

Manila now gloomy

He lamented how Manila’s magnificence “did not shine” in the past years, and especially this Christmas, citing the “gloomy” atmosphere around the city this season. 

Atienza said that compared with other cities surrounding Manila, the nation’s capital seemed “dark and unhappy” when it used to be at the forefront of admirable urban planning, as it was seen to have also been the initiator of the brightest lamp posts and Christmas lanterns in the metropolis.

He also asserted that he has been receiving complaints from Manileños that the current administration allegedly did not give out grocery bags to indigent residents last Christmas. 

Atienza recalled that during his term at the Manila City Hall, he distributed 40,000 bags of groceries to poor residents of Manila every Christmas.

He denied allegations of the Lim administration that he left the city government bankrupt and that the city government is continuously reeling from it.

Atienza insisted that when his term as Manila mayor ended and he turned city hall over to Mayor Alfredo Lim, the city government had a surplus fund of at least P2.5 billion, as acknowledged by the Department of Finance and Commission on Audit.

He said Manila consistently topped COA’s financial review of the fiscal performance of 77 provinces and 115 cities in the country during his term in Manila.

When asked about his chances of winning back the Manila mayoralty, Atienza replied: “It’s the people of Manila who will decide. If the people there are happy now then it might be a tough fight but if people are not happy, then we could have a landslide victory there and I know that the people there are not happy now.”

Atienza will be going against Lim and former Manila police chief Avelino Razon.

Atienza thanked the DENR employees for his “meaningful and fruitful” two-and-a-half years at the agency. 

He expressed gratitude to the employees for the opportunity given to him to contribute to the progress of the country through his stint at the DENR.

Atienza took the helm of the DENR on July 18, 2007 from then Secretary Angelo Reyes.

“I believe I have reformed existing procedures in the institution as well as enforced the laws, with the filed cases against companies violating these laws as proof as well as the implementation of an overdue SC decision involving a property in Calatagan, Batangas,” Atienza said. “I believe I was able to help and contribute to our country in a big way through my stay at the DENR.”

“But I also believe that I can likewise help and contribute to our country in a big way if I concentrate on improving and cleaning up Manila... saving it from further deterioration, as you can see now,” he also said.

Atienza stressed that his successor at the DENR must ensure that 2010 would be the year for the agency to focus on environmental law enforcement as well as for efforts made in previous years to be sustained to be able to ensure the preservation of the environment, especially amid the threats of climate change. 










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