The Philippines Commission on Appointments has confirmed the appointment of Roy Cimatu as the nation’s environment secretary. The ex-military chief now has the task of deciding whether to implement reforms introduced by his predecessor Regina Lopez that led to the closure of mines and suspension of many others.

Roy Cimatu was chosen for the position by President Rodrigo Duterte in May after Regina Lopez failed to win confirmation. She had previously order 26 of the country’s 41 mines to be shut or suspended, citing environmental reasons.

Reuters said this week that miners had welcomed the confirmation, saying that they are ready to work with him to support the mining industry.

According to Reuters, Roy Cimatu said after the confirmation that he would pursue programs and projects that would truly protect the environment and improve people’s lives. However, apart from supporting a ban on open-pit mining imposed by Regina Lopez - and backed by the President - it remains unclear what his plans are for the sector, with the mine closures still under study.

After his appointment in May he said he believed it was possible to strike a balance between allowing mining and protecting natural resources.

Chamber of Mines of the Philippines executive director Ronald Recidoro told Reuters, “We are optimistic that we have a secretary who will base his decisions on evidence and facts, and will take a more reasoned, more rational approach toward regulating the large-scale metallic mining industry.”

Last month the country’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it had formed a group to handle the appeals process for miners seeking to reverse the decision by Regina Lopez to close them down. The group does not include DENR staff who were involved in the process that led to the suspensions.

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