MANILA- Mining is not the sole concern of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
This was the reminder of newly-appointed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu as he vowed to face the challenges in the position handed over to him by Gina Lopez, who pursued a staunch campaign against destructive mining during her time at the agency.
"Hindi lang naman mining ang malaking concern ng DENR," Cimatu said in an interview on DZMM Thursday.
As Environment chief, Cimatu said he would seek to address problems of pollution and solid waste management.
But he also vowed to visit mining sites to see for himself best practices and violations of mining firms in the wake of the controversial crackdown that Lopez had pursued.
"I am planning to go there sa mga mining para malaman ko not only [in] theory, kasi nababasa ko lang, pero gusto ko talaga makita for myself on the ground kung ano talaga ang proseso ng pag-mining," he said.
Though the former military man admitted that he was still learning the basics of his new position, Cimatu said his experiences in the military could help him fulfill his new mandate.
"May advantage rin naman [yung experience ko sa military] kasi number one, yung mga controversy naman noon, mga mining, mining, na-assign rin ako banda doon," he said.
"I know the terrain, the landscape and the people pero the mechanics of mining wala pa rin talaga ako," he added.
Cimatu, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) took over the leadership of the department from Lopez last week.
This after the bicameral Commission on Appointments rejected her selection for the post, which faced heavy protests from the mining sector and communities affected by mine site closures she had ordered.
Asked whether it would be right to call him a reluctant secretary, Cimatu said he was used to facing challenges.
"I aim to face the challenge, sanay naman ako sa mga binibigay na assignment na medyo may konting delikado, danger. Ito naman, the challenge [is] to help the government implement mining laws," he said.
Cimatu said he was set to meet his predecessor Lopez on Friday to discuss more details about his position. He also denied that he booted out appointees of Lopez, even calling them competent.
"Andito pa rin, kasama ko pa rin sila (Lopez appointees). I’m making use of them. Maraming magaling eh," he said.