Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon.

Two days ago I was advised by PRRD whom all of us fondly call Mayor Digong that I will be his next DENR Secretary. This caught me completely by surprise. Having retired as AFP Chief of Staff in 2002 after 30 years of serving as a soldier of the Republic and, subsequently, on an intermittent basis until 2011, as Special Envoy for OFWs especially those in distressed situations, I had thought that, as General Douglas MacArthur once said of old soldiers, I will just fade away. But as fate would have it, here I am being conscripted yet again by a friend of long standing to serve our country.

Sabi ko nga kay Presidente matanda na ako. Pero sabi niya sa akin: anong matanda, mas matanda ako sa iyo ng isang taon. And so, duty calls. Here I am wading in into a field far removed from soldiery. That is why you will please excuse me if I ask that I be given time to scan and study the terrain in an agency which impacts considerably on our very life as a people and the future of our beloved Philippines.

Coming as it does right after the very heated confirmation debates involving Secretary Gina Lopez, a very passionate an ardent advocate of environmental protection and inclusive growth, makes my entry even more challenging. I will try to do my best as President Duterte's point man in the daunting task of protecting our environment in all its forms - from the mines to the lakes and rivers to the forests to the plains to our waters to our sewers, to the very air we breathe you name it - while promoting the wise and proper use of these God given resources for the public good. That is what I understand being a steward means.

I cannot do this alone. President Duterte cannot do this alone. We will need all hands on deck, first, the men and women of the DENR from the senior officials at the Central Office to the rangers, foresters, geologists even janitors on the ground; then, the various clients of the agency, again from big business to the smallest tinderos and all households using the very resources we have to take care of in a proper and sustainable manner. Even our international partners who care as much as we do about the fate of this one and only planet that we live in will have to be engaged. We have to work together as a Team. With Teamwork, we can do, so much more in accomplishing the critical responsibilities we carry on our shoulders.

I intend to listen to all the voices out there and make full use of our powers and resources to ensure that these various concerns, some of which often times clash, will be properly and judiciously addressed. For in the end we at the DENR will only be as effective as our various constituents will help us to be.

So, ladies and gentlemen please help me learn the ropes and earn your respect. We are all in this together. Thank you. May God bless you all! ###