MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine lawmakers confirmed Roy Cimatu as Environment Secretary, giving the former soldier the task of deciding whether to implement reforms spearheaded by predecessor Regina Lopez that led to mine closures – but cost her the job.
A 71-year-old ex-military chief, Cimatu was picked for the post by President Rodrigo Duterte in May, after firebrand environmentalist Lopez failed to win Congressional confirmation. Lopez had ordered 26 of 41 mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier be shut or suspended to protect water resources.
Miners welcomed Cimatu’s confirmation on Wednesday, saying they’re ready to work with him to support the mining industry. Shares of top nickel ore exporter Nickel Asia Corp jumped nearly 3 percent.
Cimatu said after the confirmation that he will “pursue programs and projects that would truly protect the environment and improve people’s lives”. But apart from supporting a ban on open-pit mining imposed by Lopez – and backed by Duterte – it remains unclear what Cimatu’s plans are for the sector, with the mine closures still under study.
Cimatu won an “overwhelming yes vote” from members of the Commission on Appointments, said Senator Manny Pacquiao, head of the environment committee that held the confirmation hearings.