Photo from Mark Saludes.
We have no doubt that Secretary Roy Agalluna Cimatu will be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA), as we did not doubt before that the CA will reject former Secretary Gina Lopez’s appointment. Yesterday’s confirmation of Sec. Cimatu showed that mining lobbyists have no intention of blocking his appointment like what they did with Former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.
The handpicking of Cimatu, a military man with distinct experience in managing the operations of the AFP, but without any background on environmental protection, was a big question for us. We asked then: Is the President’s decision to put Cimatu in the position a way to achieve his avowed intention to protect the environment from mining, therefore he needs someone more firm to implement his so called marching orders to stop the “unbridled and irresponsible destruction over watersheds, forests, and aquatic resources”?
We want to believe we need such firmness. But we know better.
The 23 mining operations ordered closed, and 5 suspended by former Sec. Lopez are on appeal in DENR or with the President’s Office and currently being reviewed by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) through the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP). Absent most probably are the most pressing concerns of communities where mining operate like juggernauts; they change the biology of the mine sites and the surrounding areas and destroying relationships of community members.
Last 5 June 2017, in celebration of the 2017 World Environment Day, we held a nationwide action in Manila, Legazpi, Baguio, Panay, Infanta, Marinduque, Davao, and Zamboanga City to highlight environmental issues. We also asked and pursued a dialogue with the President to hand-over the letters coming from our mining-affected community partners. The request was passed on however to the DENR. On the day of the event, these letters were publicly received by USec. Demetrio Ignacio. That was exactly 5 months ago, but we have yet to hear from the office of the new DENR Secretary.
In one of our many letters to DENR, we appealed to Sec. Cimatu to see through the continued implementation of the suspension orders of then Sec. Heherson Alvarez over Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC) with a mine site in Manicani Island, Eastern Samar which was suspended in 2002, but the company is right now soliciting consent from the LGUs of Guiuan including the Municipal Government in light of its expiring permit on 28 October 2017.
We have yet to receive any answer from Sec. Cimatu on our requests and queries.
When the new DENR Secretary, the alter-ego of the President, is reluctant in seeing face-to-face a section of his stakeholder – the community members gravely affected by mining operation and news reports circulating that his MGB Director seem so eager to please the miners that he is working hard to lobby for the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining, it raises some serious doubts and concerns on the sincerity of the President’s stance to show “firmness” against destructive mining operations as well as the DENR Secretary’s resolve in upholding environmental laws.