FILE PHOTO: Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff Roy Cimatu (L) speaks during a news conference at the military headquarters in Manila, Philippines July 5, 2002 REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File photo(reuters_tickers)
By Manolo Serapio Jr
MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines' new Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said on Tuesday he can allow mining in the country as long as it is done responsibly, taking a more moderate stance than his dismissed predecessor who ordered over half the country's mines shut.
"For me, I think we can allow mining (as long as) it's responsible, it does not destroy the environment, as long as it's properly handled," Cimatu, a former army general, told radio station DZBB.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday named Cimatu as replacement for Regina Lopez, a move welcomed by miners but opposed by environmentalist groups who said Cimatu does not have a track record in protecting natural resources.
Cimatu, who described himself as "moderate and calm", said while he did not have enough experience in environmental conservation, he was willing to learn.
He said he would look at mines that Lopez allowed to operate as well as those that were ordered shut in the world's top nickel ore supplier.
Lopez in February ordered 22 of 41 operating mines to close permanently and later cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines to protect water resources. She also banned open-pit mining.
Cimatu, who briefly headed the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 2002, said he wants to meet Lopez to get her insight on policies.
"I admire her passion and love for the environment. I will be honoured to meet her and try to get her insight in protecting the environment," he said.
"I will do my job well for the interest of the Filipino people."
Lopez had previously said the Philippines was "unfit for mining" because of its unique ecosystem. She was dismissed last week by a panel of lawmakers who scrutinize Duterte's appointments.
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr; Editing by Martin Petty and Richard Pullin)