MANILA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed a former military man as the new environment minister after Congress dismissed his first choice, who ordered the closure of more than half of the mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier.
Former army general and ambassador Roy Cimatu will take over from Regina Lopez, a move welcomed by miners who have questioned the legality of Lopez’s measures. But environmental group Greenpeace and the Catholic Church expressed doubts that Cimatu will carry on with any meaningful reforms.
“We are confident that Secretary Cimatu shall faithfully serve the interest of the country and the Filipino people in his capacity as the new DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Secretary,” Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement on Monday.
Cimatu briefly served as Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 2002, during former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration. Duterte has said he met Cimatu in Davao City many years ago where he served as mayor for more than two decades.
Before Monday’s appointment, Duterte last month named Cimatu as a special envoy to help overseas Filipino worker refugees. The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said it hopes Cimatu’s appointment “finally answers our long-held call for a DENR secretary who has a balanced appreciation for environmental protection and natural resources management.”
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