Secretary Roy Cimatu has expressed hope the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would receive the P3.036 billion additional funding it needed to bankroll three crucial programs the agency will start to implement next year.

“We are hopeful the budget augmentation will be included in the final version of the 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to be passed by Congress—the House of Representatives and the Senate—and signed into law by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Cimatu said.

The proposed funding increase includes P1.2 billion for the Enforcement Bureau; P1.8 billion for the full implementation of the Republic Act No. 11038 or the “Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act of 2018” ; and P36 million for land titling.

During the budget deliberation at the House Appropriations Committee held recently, both the Majority and Minority blocs threw their support behind the environment chief’s plans to create an Enforcement Bureau with the assurance that they would push for the augmentation of the DENR budget during the bicameral conference on the 2020 GAB.

The environment head explained that with its own Enforcement Bureau, the DENR could effectively enforce environmental laws and protect its workers who have been the vicious targets of illegal loggers and other environmental criminals.

He made the appeal a few days after Bienvenido Veguilla Jr., a DENR forest ranger, was brutally killed by suspected illegal loggers in El Nido, Palawan.

The deliberation likewise tackled the need for the additional funds for the full implementation of and the acceleration of land titling and distribution of public lands.

Last Sept. 20, the House approved on third and final reading the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, including the P25.5 billion allocation for the DENR which is 16 percent higher than the P21.96 billion it got for this year.

The Senate had already started its own review of the government’s spending plan for next year and is expected to come up with its own version of the GAB.

“We are hoping that the DENR would get the same extent of support from the senators.”

“We are hoping that the DENR would get the same extent of support from the senators just like their counterparts in the House when they meet at the bicameral conference committee,” Cimatu said.

“Representatives crossed party lines in casting their support,” he said, referring to the commitment of support given by House Majority Floor leader Martin Romualdez, House Minority leader Manila 6th District Rep. Benny Abante Jr., and independent opposition Albay 1st District Rep. EdcelLagman.

At the deliberations, Romualdez assured Cimatu of joining “the minority in the proposals to support the department all out” in response to Abante’s assurance of the minority block’s support to the DENR’s appeal to increase its proposed 2020 budget

“Kung hindi pa kayo masyadong Masaya dyan, andito po kami,” Abante said, responding to Cimatu’s appeal on the need to increase the proposed DENR P25.5 billion budget.

“The independent minority will join the majority in pushing for the increase in the DENR’s budget.”

For his part, Lagman said that “the independent minority will join the majority” in pushing for the increase in the DENR’s budget.

“Mr. Chairman. At the proper time, if the Majority in the Committee or at the Plenary would consider a justified augmentation of the proposed budget of the DENR, the independent opposition will join the majority in making this allocation,” Lagman said.

The DENR—through Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones—submitted to Congress the proposed augmentation budget of the agency last Sept. 16.

In a letter addressed to House Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Leones said the DENR would need P1.2 billion for the establishment and initial operation of the proposed Enforcement Bureau in 2020.

Leones said the agency would also need P1.8 billion for the full implementation of E-NIPAS law, and P36 million to fast track the issuance of titles for alienable and disposable public lands.

According to Leones, the creation of an Enforcement Bureau within the DENR is in line with the Duterte administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda, particularly peace and order, as it would enable the department to “fully implement and enforce laws on environment and natural resources (ENR) with full authority to police illegal loggers and ENR violators.”

The DENR official also cited the need for “full logistic support” for the implementation of the E-NIPAS law and the acceleration of public land distribution.

“Still, under the 10-point agenda of the President, to be specific, is to ‘ensure security of land tenure’ to encourage investments and address bottlenecks in land management and titling,” Leones pointed out.

The E-NIPAS law expands NIPAS Act of 1992 to cover broader range of protected areas (PAs) safeguarded under the law. The new law adds 94 more legislated PAs in the country, and bolsters the security of previously declared PAs.

The law allows the DENR to strengthen the management of PAs, which are widely considered essential for biodiversity conservation. PAs are frequently home to irreplaceable and threatened species. 

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