June 24, 2017, 3:09 am
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Special envoy for OFWS named new DENR chief

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday named special envoy to the Middle East Roy Cimatu as acting secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, vice Regina Lopez whose appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments last week.

Cimatu, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1970, served as Armed Forces chief from May to September 2002 under the Arroyo administration. He was named special envoy to the Middle East after his retirement up to 2011.

In September last year, Duterte named Cimatu to the same post, and last month as special envoy for Overseas Filipino Workers Refugees.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed the appointment of Cimatu in separate messages, after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced the appointment in a post on his Facebook page, which was taken down after several minutes.

“Let us put an end to all speculations,” Piñol, in his Facebook post, quoting the President as saying when he announced the appointment of Cimatu during a gathering of Cabinet members in Malacañang, before a Cabinet meeting.

Abella’s office released photos of the President signing Cimatu’s appointment paper before the Cabinet meeting, and administering the oath of office.

“We are confident that Secretary Cimatu shall faithfully serve the interest of the country and the Filipino people in his capacity as the new DENR secretary,” Abella said.

He said Cimatu was designated as acting secretary “to facilitate his being able to act immediately” while waiting for the Commission on Appointments to confirm his appointment.

Medialdea said no one has been appointed to Cimatu’s former post.

Cimatu will take over from Lopez whose appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments last week, ending her 10-month mining crackdown during which she ordered the closure of more than half the mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier.

Duterte largely backed Lopez’ mining crackdown but it angered miners who then sought her removal. Lopez in February ordered 22 of 41 operating mines to close permanently and cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines. She also banned open-pit mining.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said it welcomes Cimatu’s appointment with “cautious optimism.”

“His sterling record in government service speaks well of General Cimatu and we hope that his appointment finally answers our long-held call for a DENR secretary who has a balanced appreciation for environmental protection and natural resources management. The Chamber remains committed to working with President Duterte’s administration in promoting responsible mining, and we look forward to working with Secretary Cimatu in enforcing our country’s environmental and natural resource laws,” it said in a statement.

The environmental group Greenpeace said: “We need somebody with a clear track record on the environment. The problem with having a DENR secretary who has no clear track record on environmental issues is that the person likely won’t see the importance of a healthy ecosystem to a healthy economy.”

Eight Greenpeace members wearing orange jumpsuits formed a human chain outside the DENR central office in Quezon City to protest the alleged intrusion of private interests into the agency’s environmental concerns. 

“The DENR is not open for business. The rejection of Gina Lopez is a clear signal that horse trading is still happening in the halls of the CA,” said Amalie Obusan, Greenpeace Philippines country director. 

The group tied themselves outside the gate of the office and blocked employees and vehicles from getting inside.

Police came around 2 p.m. and dispersed the protesters. – With Jed Macapagal and Evan Orias
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