Tulfo asks why foreign trips in DENR this year reportedly reached P1.1 billion
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Raffy Tulfo asked how the expenses for foreign trips in Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for this year reportedly blew up to more one billion pesos.
Tulfo was citing a figure given by his sources in the department who he did not identify.
The senator made the inquiry during the Senate plenary deliberation of DENR’s proposed P24.6-billion budget for 2024.
“Ano po ang pakinabang ng taong bayan do’n sa mga foreign trips, na madalas daw mangyari compared po sa mga previous DENR secretary na hindi masyadong nagba-byahe abroad?” Tulfo asked.
(What is the benefit of the people from the foreign trips that often happen, compared to the previous DENR secretaries, who did not travel abroad much?)
“They prefer na mag-stay na lang dito at mag-ikot na lang po sa ground,” he made the comparison.
(They preferred to just stay here and go around on the ground.)
Senator Cynthia Villar responded on behalf of DENR, since she was the one sponsoring the approval of the budget on the floor.
Villar said the funds were used by the different offices.
These are office of the DENR Secretary, Biodiversity Management Bureau, Forest Management Bureau, Land Management Bureau, and Ecosystem’s Research and Management Bureau.
Villar said DENR Secretary Antonia Yulo-Lozaga went to attend events overseas where only her presence was sought.
Therefore, these situations had obliged the secretary to show up in forums abroad, said the senator.
Villar said foreign governments are the ones that usually initiated the activities.
“Nagbibigay sila sa atin ng fund… ng loans for these kinds of projects. Parang very concerned sila sa environment kaya palaging foreign,” the lawmaker explained.
(They give us funds… loans for these kinds of projects. These foreign countries seem to be very concerned with environment.)
“In fact, if you look at the funds being given to us to promote disaster resilience and this other environmental project, it’s always foreign-funded,” she added.
Villar mentioned one of the policy reforms introduced by Loyzaga was the creation of a Water Resources Management Office.
The senator noted DENR was also able to secure financial and technical support for its projects from other countries.
These assistance include the memorandum of understanding with Japanese and US governments, global environmental facility with European Union under Green Economy Program, and support from Asian Development Bank and World Bank.
Villar enumerated the foreign trips of Loyzaga:
United Nations (UN) Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction
UN Framework on Climate Change
UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal
UN Water Conference on Sustainable Development in New York
UN High-Level Meeting on Midterm Review of the Sendai Framework.
Villar also said Loyzaga went on official trips to Japan, Washington, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi as well.
Loyzaga’s foreign trips are scheduled to last until December 2023.
“Mayroon kasi akong natanggap na mga reklamo mula mismo sa mga taga-DENR na ang Secretary raw po ng DENR ay isang ‘jetsetter,’” Tulfo went on.
(I have received complaints from DENR people themselves that DENR secretary is a ‘jetsetter.’)
“This year alone, or starting nung siya ay ma-appoint, umabot sa 13 to 14 times ‘yung kanyang foreign trips,” he said.
(This year alone, or starting when she was appointed, her foreign trips have reached 13 to 14.)
Tulfo claimed Loyzaga went on five personal trips using her diplomat passport, thus, making the travels official.
“Kung diplomat passport ang ginamit niya, it has to be official,” the senator said.
(If she used a diplomat passport, it has to be official.)
“Kasi doon sa mga tips na binigay sa akin ng tipster ko from the DENR people alone, eh dalawang beses lang niya yata nagamit ang kanyang personal passport,” he said.
(Because from the information given by my tipster from DENR, she only used her personal passport twice.)
Loyzaga, in the background, was heard telling Villar that she only had about six foreign trips.
Tulfo asked Loyzaga to put her statements under oath.
Tulfo also advised Loyzaga to just assign the foreign travels to other DENR officials.
“Baka pwede pagtuunan nyo na lang yung mga problema sa DENR versus kayo po ay mag-a-abroad,” he suggested.
(Maybe you can just focus on the problems in DENR versus you going abroad.)
“Yan po ang aking humble and unsolicited advice, base po ‘yan sa request ng inyong mga kasamahan sa DENR,” he said.
(That’s my humble and unsolicited advice, based on the request of your DENR colleagues.)
INQUIRER.net tried to get the side of Loyzaga after the hearing.
However, DENR declined to comment on Tulfo’s remarks.
It said its personnel are “all hands on deck” preparing for Philippines’ participation in 2023 UN Climate Change Conference.