Cimatu calls for solidarity in protecting the environment as he takes over DENR

"We're all in this together."

Thus said newly installed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu as he called for solidarity in protecting the country's environment and natural resources during the turnover ceremony held at the DENR central office in Quezon City on Wednesday.

Cimatu, the 16th DENR Secretary since the agency was reorganized in 1987, said environmental protection requires teamwork among those in the DENR, various stakeholders and the general public.

"I cannot do this alone, President Duterte cannot do this alone. We need all hands on deck," Cimatu said in a speech after the DENR leadership was formally transferred to him by outgoing Secretary Gina Lopez.

The new DENR chief specifically mentioned "the men and women of the DENR from the senior officials at the central office to the rangers, foresters, geologists and even janitors on the ground."

He also mentioned the various clients of the DENR, including big and small businesses and all households, as well as agency's international partners.

"We have to work together as a team. With teamwork, we can do so much more in accomplishing the critical responsibilities we carry on our shoulders," he pointed out.

According to Cimatu, his appointment to the DENR has caught him "completely by surprise."

In a gesture of humility, Cimatu asked that he be given time to fully grasp the DENR and all its functions.

He admitted that the DENR is a completely different field for him since he has been known as a former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and later as special envoy for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

"Here I am wading in into a field far removed from soldiery. That is why you will please excuse me if I ask that I be given time to scan and study the terrain in an agency which impacts considerably on our very life as a people and the future of our beloved Philippines," Cimatu said.

Meanwhile, Cimatu was all praises to Lopez, saying he wished he could approximate her passion for the environment.

He described his predecessor as a "very passionate and ardent advocate of environmental protection and inclusive growth."

The former military chief said his entry to the DENR was "even more challenging" as it came right after the "very heated confirmation debates" involving Lopez.

Nevertheless, Cimatu said he will try to do his best as "President Duterte's point man in the daunting task of protecting our environment in all its forms."

He vowed to promote the "wise and proper use" of the country's natural resources "for the public good."

Prior to his appointment as DENR Secretary, Cimatu served as the 29th AFP chief of staff in 2002.

In the 1980s, Cimatu was sent to Northern Panay as Batallion Commander in Aklan province, which was then under the heavy influence of the New People’s Army (NPA).

At that time, the highway of the northern towns, especially in Ibajay, was heavily infested by the NPA. The highway was also a gateway to the present-day Boracay Island, to which his successful efforts to clear the area from threats led to the development of the top tourist destination spot in the country today.

He also became a Brigade Commander in Davao, Cotabato, and Sarangani, where he was promoted as a one-star general after his troops successfully rescued four hostages kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf. ### 

SPEECH OF DENR SECRETARY ROY A. CIMATU

SPEECH OF DENR SECRETARY ROY A. CIMATU
(during the Turn-over Ceremony, 10 May 2017, DENR Social Hall, QC)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon.

Two days ago I was advised by PRRD whom all of us fondly call Mayor Digong that I will be his next DENR Secretary. This caught me completely by surprise. Having retired as AFP Chief of Staff in 2002 after 30 years of serving as a soldier of the Republic and, subsequently, on an intermittent basis until 2011, as Special Envoy for OFWs especially those in distressed situations, I had thought that, as General Douglas MacArthur once said of old soldiers, I will just fade away. But as fate would have it, here I am being conscripted yet again by a friend of long standing to serve our country.

Sabi ko nga kay Presidente matanda na ako. Pero sabi niya sa akin: anong matanda, mas matanda ako sa iyo ng isang taon. And so, duty calls. Here I am wading in into a field far removed from soldiery. That is why you will please excuse me if I ask that I be given time to scan and study the terrain in an agency which impacts considerably on our very life as a people and the future of our beloved Philippines.

Coming as it does right after the very heated confirmation debates involving Secretary Gina Lopez, a very passionate an ardent advocate of environmental protection and inclusive growth, makes my entry even more challenging. I will try to do my best as President Duterte's point man in the daunting task of protecting our environment in all its forms - from the mines to the lakes and rivers to the forests to the plains to our waters to our sewers, to the very air we breathe you name it - while promoting the wise and proper use of these God given resources for the public good. That is what I understand being a steward means.

I cannot do this alone. President Duterte cannot do this alone. We will need all hands on deck, first, the men and women of the DENR from the senior officials at the Central Office to the rangers, foresters, geologists even janitors on the ground; then, the various clients of the agency, again from big business to the smallest tinderos and all households using the very resources we have to take care of in a proper and sustainable manner. Even our international partners who care as much as we do about the fate of this one and only planet that we live in will have to be engaged. We have to work together as a Team. With Teamwork, we can do, so much more in accomplishing the critical responsibilities we carry on our shoulders.

I intend to listen to all the voices out there and make full use of our powers and resources to ensure that these various concerns, some of which often times clash, will be properly and judiciously addressed. For in the end we at the DENR will only be as effective as our various constituents will help us to be.

So, ladies and gentlemen please help me learn the ropes and earn your respect. We are all in this together. Thank you. May God bless you all! ### 

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