AFTER SONA. Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu renews his commitment to strictly enforce mining and environmental regulations a day after President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address. Screenshot by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Tuesday, July 25, renewed his commitment to strictly enforce mining and environmental regulations following President Rodrigo Duterte’s scathing remarks against mining companies during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“Mining operations found violating laws, rules, and regulations will have to pay the price for damage caused, through payment of fines, suspensions, or closure, and subject the president and each of the directors thereof responsible for the acts committed by association, corporation, or partnership to suffer the penalty of imprisonment at the discretion of the court,” Cimatu said in a statement on Tuesday.

Since taking over the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Cimatu has insisted that he will not protect the interest of big mining companies but will, instead, make sure the law is implemented.

But some environment groups continue to tag Cimatu as a “pro-mining ex-general.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment called on the President to remove Cimatu from the DENR, and to appoint a new secretary “who will go above and beyond the standards set” by Duterte’s first environment secretary, Gina Lopez.

“Duterte should start walking his cheap talk by taking large-scale foreign mining companies to task by upholding the mining closure, suspension, and agreement cancellation orders issued by Lopez. These orders have been stuck in the Office of the President, and it only needs the political will of someone who is honestly against the big foreign mines,” Kalikasan said.

Lopez’s controversial orders on mining remain in place, but they are being reviewed by the environment department’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Cimatu on Tuesday said the DENR is one with Duterte “in his firm desire to rid the country of abusive and irresponsible miners that are concerned only with profits and care nothing for the environment and our countrymen.”

He said mining in the Philippines is only responsible if the country’s mineral resources will be developed based on the following: technical feasibility, environmental sustainability, cultural and social acceptability, and financial viability.

“The absence of one will not render a mining project as responsible,” Cimatu added.

Meanwhile, Kalikasan urged the President to “immediately scrap” the Philippine Mining Act by passing House Bill 2715 or the People’s Mining Bill.

“On his proposal for a new mining policy, it must be emphasized that Duterte’s idea of just imposing a new mining tax policy will never be enough to solve the deep-seated problems of the liberalized mining industry,” Kalikasan said, responding to the President’s threat of imposing steep taxes on mining companies that do not spend enough on the rehabilitation of areas that host their operations. | Source: