Villar scolds DENR over ‘scant’ funding proposal for protected areas
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday got an earful from Senator Cynthia Villar who questioned the low funding allocated for the development and management of protected areas in the country.
“Ito yung kailangang i-protect… masyadong maliit [yung budget]. Samantalang yun yung dineclare natin by legislation at saka presidential proclamation na dapat i-protect talaga. ‘Di ba dapat malaking budget ng DENR pumunta doon?” Villar said during the DENR’s budget hearing in the Senate.
(These are the areas we need to protect, the budget is too low. This is the case even though these areas were proclaimed as protected areas through legislation or through presidential proclamation which we need to protect. Shouldn’t the DENR give a bigger budget for those areas?)
Villar noted that the DENR’s proposed budget of P1.2 billion for the country’s protected area system is “too low,” considering protected areas in the country cover millions of hectares.
“Ang [The] legislated protected area (PAs) natin [we have] 107, consisting of 4.4 million hectares and proclaimed PAs natin na hindi legislated, proclaimed I think by the president, are 1.1 million hectares and then initial components na [covering] 2.2 million hectares,” Villar noted.
Senators were told that “initial components” are areas which are still undergoing the process of being proclaimed as a full-fledged protected area.
“Binigay nilang budget out of their budget ang binigay nila P1.2 billion, that is how much of the budget? Ten percent of the budget and they’re supposed to be protecting these,” Villar went on.
(The DENR only gave P1.2 billion for the protected areas, that is how much of the budget? Ten percent of the budget and they’re supposed to be protecting these.)
She said that the DENR should just transfer funds from the National Greening Program (NGP) to the agency’s program to develop and manage protected areas.
The DENR is proposing a 2022 budget of over P3 billion for the NGP.
“Pinagusapan na namin ni Sec. Cimatu na yung NGP dadalhin dyan sa protected area para hindi na nakikuwestyon ng Senate—kasi palagi yang kina-cut ng Senate kasi hindi nila malaman kung saan niyo dinadala yang NGP na yan,” Villar said.
(I already talked with Sec. Cimatu and told him that NGP funds should be transferred for the protected areas so that the Senate will no longer question the funds for the NGP—because the Senate always opts to cut the NGP budget because we don’t know how that program is being implemented.)
“Ang binigay niyo lang sa protected area P1.2 billion tapos ang NGP niyo P3 billion. Ayusin niyo yan kasi I cannot agree to that,” she added.
(You only gave P1.2 billion for the protected areas but you allocated P3 for the NGP. Fix this because I cannot agree to that.)
According to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, one-third of the NGP proposed budget “goes to the protected areas.”
Still, Villar said that more budget should be allocated for the protected areas.
Villar also questioned the DENR’s overhead expenses, which she said takes up nearly 75 percent of the agency’s proposed P25.3-billion budget for 2022.
“Ang [The] rule is 50 percent for you and 50 percent para sa mga tao [for the people]…Ngayong lang ako nakakita ng ganyang office na almost 75 percent ang overhead, [This is the first time I am seeing an office where 75 percent of the budget is going to overhead expenses]” the senator said.
“Fair ba yun? 75 percent of your money will go to your overhead and then 25 percent na lang sa project. Ano ba yun? Di ba kayo naaawa sa mga tao, sinasabi niyo na very important ang resiliency e ba’t 75 percent of your money ilalagay niyo sa overhead? 25 percent na lang ang project,” she added.
(Is that fair? 75 percent of your money will go to your overhead and then 25 percent for the projects? Don’t you feel bad for the people when you’re stressing the need for resiliency then you will put 75 percent for overhead? Then 25 percent for the projects.)
This, after Villar was told that the DENR’s proposed budget for Personal Services is P9 billion; P3 billion for the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses; and P4.8 billion for the Capital Outlay.
“That is P16.8 billion. That’s almost 75 percent,” she said.
But DENR Undersecretary Analiza Teh assured that the agency’s proposed overhead budget only covers 50 percent of the budget.
Cimatu also clarified that some of the budget for some projects, like the NGP, were classified as a type of expense under Capital Outlay.
“Nai-lump sa CO (Capital Outlay) na classification [It was lumped to the CO classification ,” he added.
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