Senators question DENR fund transfers to PS-DBM, PITC
MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Thursday castigated the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for transferring more than P1.4 billion over the past nine years to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and to the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), both of which had not delivered the bulk of their purchases.
Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said the department sought the services of the PS-DBM in procuring P1.3 billion worth of “IT (information technology) equipment,” including computers, software, and generators.
Leones said that since 2012, the procurement body has delivered only 34 percent of what it was supposed to purchase for the department.
Sen. Imee Marcos questioned the DENR’s continuing reliance for its purchases on the PS-DBM, which had become controversial following reports of alleged irregularities in its contracts for pandemic supplies.
“Are you not wondering, or even enraged that your funds were idled for as long as nine years?” Marcos asked Leones during a hearing on the DENR’s proposed P25.3-billion budget for 2022.
She asked why the DENR transferred the funds to the PS-DBM when its own procurement division was capable of making the purchases.
Leones explained that the DENR asked the PS-DBM to make the purchases to allow the government to save money by buying in bulk, in accordance with “economies of scale.”
‘Don’t make it a habit’
Sen. Nancy Binay pointed out that despite the failure of the PS-DBM to deliver, it continued to charge various government agencies, including the DENR, 4 percent as a service fee.
The PITC, which also performs procurement services for the government, was asked to help in the “procurement of infrastructure and land development projects” and vehicles for the DENR amounting P112 million, according to a Commission on Audit report. Marcos said the PITC also failed to deliver on those deals.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate committee on environment, told DENR officials: “Do not make it a habit of putting money in [the] PS-DBM and PITC because the common perception is that there is always corruption whenever funds are placed there.”
Villar cited her “bad experience” with PITC, which she said had not delivered 178 composting machines intended for local governments surrounding Manila Bay.
Lawmakers also chided the DENR for pushing and allotting billions for waste-to-energy projects and failing in its National Greening Program (NGP), while leaving meager funds for preserving the country’s protected areas and for managing solid waste.
The DENR’s proposed budget for next year included P9.7 billion for its 10 priority programs. One allocation amounting to P3.7 billion was for the “enhanced” NGP; another totaling P1.7 billion was for the rehabilitation of Manila Bay; P1.1 billion would go to solid waste management; and P1 billion was for the enhanced biodiversity conservation.
Citing figures from another document, Villar dismissed claims by DENR officials that it had allotted sufficient funding of P876 million for solid waste management, as P774 million of that amount was intended for a waste-to-energy (WTE) project in Davao City, which would eat up nearly all the allotment.
She also criticized DENR officials for pushing WTE projects which had questionable environmental impact.
“Why are you engaging in waste-to-energy projects when you are supposed to be protecting the environment? You better stop that because you are becoming an embarrassment,” she said.
Marcos noted that the Japanese proponents of the Davao City WTE project themselves were now expressing doubts about its feasibility.
Binay asked whether the DENR had conducted a cost-benefit analysis for the WTE project in Davao City, given the scarce funding from the department. She got no reply.
Marcos also questioned the absence of funding to help the country reduce marine litter.
“So important yet it seems to be absent in the 2022 [National Expenditure Program],” she said.
Villar expressed her disgust after the DENR ignored suggestions that it should allot more funding for protected areas but instead retained allocations for project items that were difficult to trace.
She pressed the DENR to revise its proposed budget by transferring funds from the NGP to the management of protected areas.
“If only we can take care of the 7.7 million hectares of protected areas out of the 30 million ha of the country, and the rest will be taken care of by the private sector, that is already 25 percent of the Philippines,” she said.
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