CA defers confirmation of DENR chief Roy Cimatu
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday, September 20, deferred the confirmation of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora, vice chairman of the CA committee on environment and natural resources, moved to suspend Wednesday's hearing after lawmakers questioned Cimatu for almost two hours.
"I understand there are some members of the Commission who would like to clarify certain issues and manifest some concerns regarding our work at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. This is the way democracy works. I welcome the opportunity to clear things," Cimatu said in a statement after the CA panel deferred his confirmation.
"I look forward to answering all issues responsibly. I hope after that sitting that the Commission will finally confirm my appointment as DENR Secretary," he added.
Cimatu's lone oppositor, Manuel Galvez, also opposed the nomination of former environment secretary Gina Lopez, who was rejected by the powerful CA in May.
Galvez on Wednesday again raised his concerns regarding "defective" air quality monitoring machines, and how the department's bidding is allegedly rigged to favor Electrobyte, the exclusive distributor of DOAS in the Philippines.
Responding to Galvez, Cimatu said the specifications of the DENR's air quality monitoring machines will be in accordance to the provisions of the Clean Air Act and international standards.
He also noted that his department has not procured new air quality monitoring stations as of this moment.
Senator Gregorio Honasan II then told Galvez that this is a problem of the system.
"Since this is systemic, is your opposition so deep, so intense, that it is beyond your comprehension to give him a chance after 4 months?" Honasan asked Galvez.
Cimatu was appointed to the DENR just 4 months ago.
Galvez clarified that he had no personal prejudice against Cimatu, and that he raised the points as a clean air advocate.
"Masama po talaga lagay ng hangin natin. Bakit ayaw nilang sabihin ang totoong datos ng hangin sa publiko (Our air quality is really bad. Why won't they tell the public of the true data on our air quality)?" Galvez lamented.
He said he will oppose any secretary who will not take care of clean air. Honasan then asked Galvez if he voted for President Rodrigo Duterte.
"The secretary is a consequence of the judgment call of the person you voted for. The commission simply confirms that judgment call," Honasan said as he vouched for Cimatu's integrity and patriotism.
Davao Oriental 2nd District Representative Joel Almario also noted that Galvez had opposed the confirmation of environment secretaries since the time of Lopez.
"I cannot imagine how Secretary Cimatu, Secretary Gina Lopez, or any secretary sitting in 4 months, [can] look into this matter in such a short period of time," Almario said.
While he commended Galvez's consistency, he said there are other avenues for his opposition. In January, Galvez already filed a complaint against Lopez for the supposed defective air monitoring machines.
Mining, 2018 budget
On Wednesday, members of the CA committee also asked Cimatu about his policy on mining, and the 2018 budget.
A Teacher Representative Julieta Cortuna asked Cimatu how he planned to address concerns on mining, considering that it has been a controversial issue for the past year.
Cimatu assured the lawmakers that he is a fair man, and that he will make science-based decisions while in office.
Since Cimatu took over the DENR, the department has been reviewing Lopez's controversial order that led to the closure or suspension of mining operations in the country.
Almario then asked Cimatu's view on pending House bills that seek to declare some provinces as mining-free zones. Cimatu only said his department will evaluate these bills.
On the 2018 budget, Cimatu said there are things he "has to change" in the department but were "unfortunately...not put in the budget." He discussed the DENR's enforcement capability and the need to protect the country's foresters.
Almario, however, noted that many of the environmental violations committed on the ground are "allegedly done in coordination" with local environment officials.
To this, Cimatu said: "Kung taga-DENR nagva-violate, I already warned people down there: 'Ibahin 'nyo ako (If DENR employees violate laws, I already warned people down there: 'I'm different).'" – Rappler.com