After being confirmed as the Philippines‘ new environment secretary on Wednesday (October 4), Roy Cimatu and said his department intends to conclude a review of mining operations by the end of the year.
His appointment was welcomed by miners, who said they are ready to work with him to support the industry. The Philippines is the world’s top nickel-producing country by far, despite a year-on-year fall in production in 2016.
Cimatu supports a ban on open-pit mining in the Philippines that was introduced by former Acting Environment Secretary Regina Lopez. The former acting environment secretary suspended 26 of the country’s 41 mines over concerns about environmental damage. Her decision to suspend the mines stirred controversy and caused her to lose a permanent appointment to the position.
During his confirmation hearing, Cimatu said he will focus on working toward a national mining strategy while waiting for final decisions on closed and suspended mines to be issued. He said that working on the strategy will help the government develop initial plans about what to do with companies whose mining operations are under review.
According to Cimatu, 27 companies are currently under review, and their evaluations are expected to be finished toward the end of the year. He said some of the companies continue to operate, while others have voluntarily suspended operations. It is worth noting that in July Cimatu said he hoped to come up with a decision on mining contract appeals “next month.”
Ronald Recidoro, executive director of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, told Reuters he is optimistic that the environment secretary will base his decisions on facts, and take a more rational approach towards mining regulation.
Earlier this year, Cimatu said it was possible to protect the environment and allow mining. He issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the appointment provides him with “enough inspiration to carry out the seemingly gargantuan tasks of protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable use of the country’s rich natural resources in the face of climate change and dwindling natural wealth of the nation.”
Several environmental groups have expressed their opposition about Cimatu’s appointment, but the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said on Twitter that those of its members who were present when he was awarded the post made no objection.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Shaw, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.