New environment minister open to responsible mining

Newly-appointed Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu.
Newly-appointed Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA • The Philippines' new Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu yesterday said he would allow mining in the country as long as it is done responsibly, taking a more moderate stance than his dismissed predecessor who ordered over half the country's mines shut.

"For me, I think we can allow mining (as long as) it's responsible, it does not destroy the environment, as long as it's properly handled," Mr Cimatu, a former army general, told radio station DZBB.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday named him as replacement for Ms Regina Lopez, a move welcomed by miners but opposed by environmentalist groups which said Mr Cimatu does not have a track record in protecting natural resources.

Mr Cimatu described himself as "moderate and calm", and said while he did not have enough experience in environmental conservation, he was willing to learn. He said he would look at mines that Ms Lopez allowed to operate as well as those that were ordered shut in the world's top nickel ore supplier.

Ms Lopez in February ordered 22 of 41 operating mines to close permanently and later cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines to protect water resources. She also banned open-pit mining.

Mr Cimatu said he wants to meet Ms Lopez to get her insight on policies. "I admire her passion and love for the environment. I will be honoured to meet her and try to get her insight in protecting the environment," said the former head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"I will do my job well for the interest of the Filipino people."

Ms Lopez had previously said the Philippines was "unfit for mining" because of its unique ecosystem. She was dismissed last week by a panel of lawmakers who scrutinise Mr Duterte's Cabinet appointees.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'New environment minister open to responsible mining'. Print Edition | Subscribe