Climate and Environment

DENR chief Cimatu quits due to health reasons

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DENR chief Cimatu quits due to health reasons
Undated photo from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources shows Secretary Roy Cimatu.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Handout

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu has resigned from his post due to health reasons, Malacañang said on Friday. 

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Undersecretary Jim Sampulna was designated as the department’s officer-in-charge.

“We wish Secretary Cimatu good health as he transitions from his decades-long and stellar service in government to private life,” Nograles said.

The former military chief-turned-environment secretary oversaw the six-month rehabilitation of Boracay, the country’s most famous tourist island.

He also led the restoration of Manila Bay, which includes transforming a polluted stretch of the bay’s shoreline into an artificial white sand beach made from crushed dolomite rocks. Officials said such undertaking will help protect coastal resources in the area, but scientists and environmental groups criticized the project as an expensive and temporary effort that will not solve the bay's problems.

In December last year, the DENR reversed the ban on open-pit mining, which was imposed in 2017 when the agency was led by anti-mining advocate Regina Lopez. Green groups said the policy reversal may lead to further degradation of the environment.

Cimatu replaced Lopez in 2017 when she was rejected by the congressional Commission on Appointments. 

Environmentalists also criticized the DENR under Cimatu's leadership for granting environmental compliance certificates for the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan and the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project in Rizal and Quezon provinces, which are feared to harm the environment and communities.

During his term as environment chief, the retired Army general sought to strengthen the enforcement of the country’s environmental laws by pushing for the creation of Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau.

Cimatu also chaired the government’s Task Force Build Back Better, which was directed by President Rodrigo Duterte to ensure post-disaster rehabilitation efforts in typhoon-hit areas. — with report from Angelica Yang

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