The new chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has commended former Secretary Roy A. Cimatu's work and committed to continue his major environmental programs and projects until the end of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's term.

DENR OIC Secretary Jim O. Sampulna committed to build on the gains of the agency under Cimatu in the remaining months of the Duterte administration.

"The initiatives of our good Secretary, Secretary Cimatu, has made a huge impact on the Filipino people and I intend to continue what he has started," Sampulna said.

"What I can commit is, our initiatives in the next four months, we will do these for the benefit of the Filipino people," he added.

The Mindanao-native official underscored the progress in the ongoing restoration of Manila Bay and the success of the Boracay Island rehabilitation.

He said that he will continue the priority projects as a commitment to President Duterte.

"We can now see the beauty of Manila Bay. Maybe only around 500-600 meters of the Manila Bay is yet to be laid down with dolomite sand. I intend to continue that project because that is our commitment to our dear President," Sampulna pointed out.

"Meanwhile in Boracay, since it is also the commitment of the DENR to President Duterte, we intend to continue that," he said.

Moreover, Sampulna, who is the undersecretary for attached agencies, mining, and Muslim affairs before taking charge as the OIC of the DENR, also clarified the issue on open-pit mining in relation to the lifting of the ban through Executive Order 130.

"It is in the law that open-pit mining is allowed. However, we have policies and guidelines on conducting open-pit mining which should be clear and followed," Sampulna pointed out.

"There are misnomers that if it is open-pit, then it is destructive. But even prior to the start of the project, there is already a plan for rehabilitation where the degree of damage to the environment has already been measured… it will be restored after their operation," he added.

He also noted that constant monitoring of mining operations is being conducted by the national government, neighboring mining communities, and the "very strict" Mining Industry Coordinating Council.

Meanwhile, on the issue of banning single-use plastic, Sampulna pointed out that the DENR has already been advocating for this and he supports its banning despite the absence of a law.

"We need some legislation for that (ban on single-use plastic). Although there is no legislation on that yet, we are already advocating for it," Sampulna said.

"I am pushing to ban single-use plastic because it is harmful to the environment," he added.

Sampulna also echoed the call of the DENR and urged candidates for May 2022 elections to refrain from nailing campaign materials on trees.

He also asked the general public not to vote for candidates who "destroy the environment."

"I wish upon all our Filipino brothers and sisters who are vying for elective positions for 2022 to avoid nailing your campaign materials in any living tree," Sampulna said.

"So, I am asking, especially to our voters, do not vote for all candidates who are destroying our environment. They should be environment-friendly," he added.

Sampulna took over the post of DENR chief after Cimatu's resignation due to health reasons. ###