MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Wednesday, October 4, said his department expects to finish the ongoing review on closed and suspended mining operations by the end of the year.
During Cimatu’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Ramirez-Sato asked the environment chief about his policy directions regarding mining.
He explained that any national policy comes from national interest, and that he is following congressional laws and executive orders to come up with a national strategy on mining.
“I am focusing on this, so we have already some initial plans on this while waiting for the issuance of the final decisions on what could happen to these mining companies that were recommended for closure or recommended for suspension,” Cimatu said.
He then gave an update on the mining operations that were ordered closed or suspended by former environment secretary Gina Lopez.
“There are about 27 – 14 applied for motion for reconsideration and 13 went to the Office of the President for appeal. We expect to finish this towards the end of the year,” he said, noting that some of these mining companies are still operating while some voluntarily stopped operations.
Sato then asked Cimatu what his department’s actions are on the alleged violations committed in the mining operations. The environment secretary insisted he will wait for the final decision of those conducting the review.
He also gave an update on the ban on open-pit mining, saying that this is now being reviewed in light of President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive that the government will abide by existing laws, rules, and regulations.
“Until said laws are amended, we will continue the mining operations, but… all mitigating measures to avoid environmental problems should be put in place. Second, the host communities should be taken cared of… Third, the proper taxes should be paid and within a reasonable period of time,” Cimatu explained.
Currently, the Office of the President, the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are already in consultation with various sectors “to ensure that open-pit mining will be undertaken in the context of global best practices and in accordance with [internationally] accepted standards.”
Cimatu said the DENR will abide by the President’s instruction to “eventually stop open-pit mining.”
Sato then asked Cimatu for a categorical answer on whether or not he will push for a ban on open-pit mining. The environment secretary then quoted Duterte’s instruction to “give enough elbow room to the mining companies.”
The Commission on Appointments on Wednesday confirmed the ad interim appointment of Cimatu as environment secretary. – Rappler.com