Cimatu to protect big mining firms? ‘I’ve been a fair man’

Jee Y. Geronimo
Newly appointed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu also answers allegations on his human rights record and his involvement in the military's 'pabaon' system

'LOVER OF ENVIRONMENT.' Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu answers questions from reporters on Wednesday, May 10. Screenshot from Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Wednesday, May 10, shot back at his critics who said he will protect the interest of big mining companies.

“No. I’ve been a fair man. I will see to it that what was in the law is implemented by everybody,” Cimatu told reporters Wednesday. (READ: New DENR chief Cimatu asks for time to ‘study terrain’)

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) earlier criticized Cimatu as among the “pioneers and implementors” of a counterinsurgency program during the Arroyo administration that killed hundreds of farmers, workers, and activists – including mining advocates.

“Cimatu will definitely defend and kill to protect the interests of large-scale local and foreign mining companies,” KMP Secretary General Antonio Flores said in a statement on Monday, May 8 – the day Cimatu’s appointment to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was announced.

The new environment secretary earlier said he will allow responsible mining in the country.

“We have to follow the law, we have to follow the safeguards on extracting minerals. If you look at the mining companies that are operational now, that’s what responsible mining [is], they were allowed to operate,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Cimatu revealed he will be going to Mindanao next week to visit mining companies that were allowed to continue operating because they “followed regulations and laws properly.”

“I’ll also see the mining companies na hindi sumunod kaya na-suspend, nasaraduhan (that were suspended because they did not follow rules, closed).”

Human rights, pabaon system

Cimatu was also asked about alleged human rights violations committed during his time as chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). 

“I have neer been accused of any case like that. I am a lover of the environment,” he said during the ambush interview.

He even shared that he planted a tree back when he was still a lieutenant, and that the tree should be about 45 years old already by now.

Nakapangalan ‘yung pangalan ko doon, First Lieutenant Cimatu Tree. Kaya I’m planning to go back… and put another one, DENR Secretary Cimatu Tree,” he added.

(The tree is named after me, First Lieutenant Cimatu Tree. That’s why I’m planning to go back…and put another one, DENR Secretary Cimatu Tree.)

Cimatu was also asked about accusations that he received millions in cash from the “pabaon system” in the military.

“These are allegations,” Cimatu answered before cutting the interview short.

In 2011, AFP budget officer and comptroller Army Colonel George Rabusa claimed in a Senate hearing that former chiefs Cimatu, Angelo Reyes, and Diomedio Villanueva were beneficiaries of “converted cash.”

President Rodrigo Duterte, a Davao City vice mayor then, publicly defended Cimatu from the allegations.

Cimatu replaced Gina Lopez, whose appointment as environment secretary was rejected by the powerful Commission on Appointments last May 3. – Rappler.com