The Senate Finance Subcommittee B is pushing to provide additional budget for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to strengthen its monitoring of the country's legislated protected areas. Finance subcommittee chair Senator Cynthia Villar said the PHP444-million allocation under the DENR's proposed PHP24.572-billion budget for 2024 is not enough to monitor the 4.2 million hectares of protected lands. "Alam ko na yung pera hindi magkakasya kasi (I know that the money is not enough because) in addition that you have to watch over the protected areas, you also have to improve based on the problems that you encounter," she said during the Senate budget hearing Wednesday. This despite DENR Secretary Ma. Antonia "Toni" Yulo-Loyzaga told the committee that while the agency has its forest protection enforcement budget, communities are being deputized to help monitor the activities within the area. "We work with what we are given po. We do request every year for of course additional budget and what we are trying to do now is also apply some new technology po. We use the drone, satellite imagery. However, hindi po talaga kakayanin (it cannot sustain). There are areas wherein one ranger has to cover thousands of hectares," Yulo-Loyzaga said. Villar agreed saying that the use of technology is cheaper and more effective than hiring security personnel. "They tolerate. At saka yung sinasabi mong people's organization (PO), dapat babantayan din yan. Hindi naman lahat ng people's organization matino. Baka mamaya ite-take advantage lang yung (And the people's organization that you're saying should also be monitored. Not all people's organization are upright. They might also take advantage of the) legislated protected area," the lawmaker said, adding the DENR has an existing 282 agreements with different POs all over the country. These agreements include the Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBRMA) with the controversial Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI) in Surigao del Norte which was recently suspended due to gross violations of its terms and conditions. PACBRMA is one of the three major tenure instruments being issued by the DENR to POs, which is tasked to rehabilitate by planting and undertaking some allowable livelihoods in the awarded protected area with the duration of 25 years subject to renewal or suspension. The revenues generated from the protected areas are being deposited to the DENR's Integrated Protected Area Fund, wherein 75 percent is retained for the operations of the protected area and 25 percent is remitted to the National Treasury. However, the DENR reported to the committee that in the previous years, not the full 75 percent is being released to the agency. Villar vowed to look into the matter and consult with the Department of Budget and Management.
Source: Philippines News Agency