DENR’s Cimatu designates Leones as his spokesman

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has appointed Undersecretary for Environment and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones as his spokesman.

Cimatu said the designation took effect last week.

Last Thursday Leones, who held his first meeting with the Public Affairs Office (PAO) chiefs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), told the BusinessMirror that Cimatu wants somebody who can deal with reporters’ important questions and queries.

“The DENR Secretary just wants to ensure transparency,” said Leones, a lawyer.

“From now on, we will have a weekly forum and I would like to ask our friends in the media to help us disseminate important information about our programs and activities,” he added.

Leones has previously held key positions in the DENR, including as director of the Environmental Management Bureau.  He is the concurrent point person of the DENR on environmental issues, such as international agreements of which the Philippines is a party or a signatory, including the Paris Agreement, wherein the country conditionally promised to reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent between 2020 and 2030 as part of the global effort to limit global temperature increase below the 1.5 degrees limit.

According to Leones, the DENR chief wants all DENR PAO chiefs and their information officers to act in unison to effectively communicate President Duterte and Cimatu’s plans and programs for the environment and natural-resources sector.

Starting next month, there will be a weekly forum with the DENR beat reporters and members of the media, during which queries about important issues and concerns will be answered by him and other concerned officials, he said.

The media-shy Cimatu, a former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of  staff, has his hands full visiting DENR regional offices since he took over in May last year.

He has also conducted a site inspection in large-scale mines in various parts of the country.

He has declined interview requests and is elusive when sought for comments on pressing issues that require the response of the office of the DENR secretary.

Cimatu is currently faced with tough decisions, particularly on mining issues, such as the appeals on the mine closure and suspension orders affecting over two dozen large-scale operating mines, and other controversial policy declarations of his predecessor, Regina Paz L. Lopez.

The mining industry’s big players represented by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines is seeking a reversal of some of these policies, including the ban on open-pit mining method on select ores, such as gold, copper and silver and complexed ores, the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements  for projects within or near watersheds, and several environmental compliance certificates  for projects that threaten the country’s biodiversity.

Environmental and anti-mining groups have challenged the DENR chief to issue clear-cut mining policies and to uphold Lopez’s open-pit mining ban as well as the cancellation of MPSAs.

Last week, Cimatu said the decision on the appeals of mining companies on the controversial closure and suspension orders issued by Lopez will be announced in March.

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