PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has named a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas insider as his choice for central bank governor and a former Armed Forces chief to head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
On the sidelines of a Cabinet meeting Monday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez confirmed that the President chose Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. to replace outgoing Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., who is set to retire on July 2.
At the same time, the President tapped former Armed Forces chief and retired general Roy Cimatu to replace controversial Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, who was rejected by the Commission on Appointments last week.
Cimatu, who is also the special envoy for Overseas Filipino Workers and refugees, will serve in an acting capacity as the head of the state environment regulator.
“Let us put an end to all speculations,” Duterte was quoted as saying in a Facebook post by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.
A few days before Lopez got the boot, Duterte hinted that he would transfer Cimatu to a “busier job” if things did not go well.
Lopez had stirred up a firestorm of protest in the mining industry by ordering the closure of 23 companies, the suspension of five others and the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements, but drew support from anti-mining non-government organizations and church groups.
Espenilla, who heads the BSP’s Supervision and Examination Sector, was included in the shortlist submitted by Dominguez to Duterte for the top BSP post. Others were Deputy Governor for Monetary Stability Sector Diwa Guinigundo, former Monetary Board member Peter Favila, and East West Bank vice chairman Antonio Moncupa Jr.
Espenilla will succeed Tetangco, who will end his second six-year term on July 2. Tetangco earlier declined to accept a third term due to health reasons.
Espenilla’s responsibility as deputy governor included the regulation of banks.
Espenilla graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines School of Economics and holds a master’s degree in policy science from the Graduate Institute of Policy in Tokyo.
Tetangco earlier said he preferred an insider and a person with significant central banking experience as his successor, citing a number of major requirements that the next central bank governor should possess.
“If you want a seamless transition in the BSP, the next governor should be the one with central banking experience, an insider,” Tetangco said. “An underlying factor there would be familiarity with the mandate and how to deliver on it, as well as the culture of the organization.”
The next governor, he said, should carry out the BSP’s prime objective of maintaining price and financial stability that are conducive to balanced and sustainable economic growth.
He said the next governor should also continue instituting reforms, such as certain components of the Basel 3 reform agenda.
During the Cabinet meeting Monday, Duterte introduced Cimatu as the next chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines welcomed Cimatu’s appointment.
“The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines welcomes with cautious optimism the appointment of former AFP Chief of Staff Roy Cimatu as Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. His sterling record in government service speaks well of General Cimatu and we hope that his appointment finally answers our long-held call for a DENR secretary who has a balanced appreciation for environmental protection and natural resources management,” said the chamber’s vice president for legal affairs, Ronald Recidoro.
Recidoro said the mining industry is hoping that Cimatu will be more balanced in his outlook and will see the industry as a partner, not an adversary, a clear reference to Lopez.
But the leftist fishermen’s group, Pamalakaya, opposed the appointment, saying that historically, the military orientation is not to safeguard the environment and the people, but to protect the destructive operations of large mining companies in the countryside.
A native of Bangui, Ilocos Norte, Cimatu was instrumental in the government’s operations to crush the Abu Sayyaf and rescue their hostages, Martin and Gracia Burnham and Filipina nurse, Ediborah Yap.
After he retired from service, he was appointed as the Special Envoy to the Middle East with a title of ambassador during the Arroyo administration. He was the chief negotiator for the release of the Filipino workers who were kidnapped in Iraq. With Sandy Araneta
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