DENR@30: Cimatu vows to build on gains, strengthen environmental programs

As the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) marked its 30th year, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu vowed on Friday to continue and strengthen the various programs on environmental protection and natural resource management amid the ever-increasing threat of climate change.

Addressing his fellow workers in the DENR, Cimatu said the challenge before him as DENR secretary was great: to "build on the gains" of the programs carried out by the DENR secretaries before him, “pick up the momentum, and run my lap the best I could, before passing on the baton to my successor when the time comes to do so.”

"I do not need to reinvent the wheel, or discontinue the progress made across our first 30 years," Cimatu said in his message to the DENR community during the agency's 30th anniversary celebration held at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

The environment chief added: "I will however endeavor to make the system work better, more efficiently and with greater effectiveness. That will be achievement enough, given the magnitude of the job."

Cimatu, a former Armed Forces chief and special envoy for overseas Filipino workers and refugees, averred that although the DENR has done so much for the environment during the last three decades, "there still remains a great deal for us to accomplish."

Taking a cue from President Rodrigo Duterte, Cimatu said he will keep an eye on the mining industry and ensure the dismantling of all fish pens and other illegal structures in Laguna Lake.

"President Duterte himself has publicly voiced demands for the mining sector to prove its worth to the people, not just to investors. The same applies to massive fish pens in Laguna Lake," Cimatu pointed out.

"These marching orders have been passed on to me, so reforms in these extractive industries will continue to be pushed and pursued," he added.

It will be recalled that during his first State of the Nation Address last year, Duterte ordered the dismantling of big fish pens and cages in Laguna Lake to allow small fishermen to gain access to traditional fishing grounds.

Just like what he pledged during his first day at the DENR, Cimatu said "cleaning our air, freshwater bodies and seas, and better management of our solid wastes and watersheds will continue to be our priority concerns."
He also promised to prioritize "reforestation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation, disaster and risk reduction and management, and more effective and efficient enforcement of environmental laws, rules and regulations."

The country's former top soldier said that as DENR chief, he will have to treat the protection and conservation of the environment and natural resources as a security matter.

For the first time in 30 years, the DENR paid tribute to all previous secretaries of the agency, whom Cimatu called the leaders who "shaped the DENR, cumulatively making it what it is today."

The previous DENR secretaries, along with the agency's oldest officials and employees, were given plaques of recognition, honoring their legacies and accomplishments.

"The credit is cumulative, and thus must be shared, not just among the leaders, but with every member of the DENR family and its attached agencies," Cimatu said.

He said it was only fair to give special credits to former DENR secretaries, citing the extraordinary sacrifices and pressures that come with the position.

"No DENR Secretary has escaped criticisms, whether fair or unfair, because it is impossible to satisfy the divergent expectations of various stakeholders," he explained.

"The post confers no immunity, but rather exposes its occupants to ordeals and dilemmas, both from below and from the top."

Echoing this year's anniversary theme, "DENR@30: Pagbubuklod para sa Kalikasan," Cimatu called on the entire DENR community to continue to work with its partners and stakeholders in protecting the country's environment and natural resources.

"Uniting for the environment, for Mother Nature, is not just a battle cry or a call of the moment. It is a lifelong necessity, particularly in this era of climate change, when every individual is expected to contribute to solutions that require mass participation," he stressed.

Aside from past DENR chiefs, plaques of recognition were also given to the most senior directors of the Bureaus of Land, Mines and Forestry.

Also recognized in the event was Eduardo Guillen, former mayor of Piddig town in Ilocos Norte province, for establishing a coffee nursery and planting coffee trees during his term, as part of the National Greening Program.

With a financial grant from the DENR, the coffee plantations were established not only as component of the effort to enhance land productivity but also to provide an alternative livelihood to Piddig residents.

Other highlights of the day-long celebration were the turnover of brand new vehicles (59 motorcycles and 18 trucks) to regional offices and the oathtaking of board members of the DENR Association of Career Executives.

In 1987, then President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 192 restructuring the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources or DARN and renaming it to DENR. ###