MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday questioned the P1.2 billion proposed fund for the anticipated traveling expenses of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2022.
During the Senate’s plenary debates on next year’s government spending plan, Sotto asked the DENR to justify the need for such an amount for traveling expenses alone.
“This caught my attention while reading the budget briefer…Umabot sa bilyon? There are regional offices ang DENR hindi ba? You have people on the ground all over the country,” he said.
Senator Cynthia Villar, who was tasked to defend the budget of the DENR, said the agency needs the funding for its 275 bureaus, regional and provincial offices across the country.
“The traveling expenses will be given to one central office, four staff bureaus, 16 regional offices, 76 provincial environment and natural resources offices, 142 community environment and natural resources offices, two line bureaus, and 31 regional offices and three attached agencies to make a total of 275 offices,” she said.
”If we go by the average, this translates to around P4.7 million per office,” she added.
But Sotto was still puzzled as to why the DENR would need P1.2 billion for traveling expenses when it already has over 200 offices in the country.
“There are 275 offices eh, ibig sabihin punong-puno ang Pilipinas ng mga regional offices ng departamento,” he said.
He pointed out that these offices could just communicate with each other online or through mobile phones.
“So why do they have to travel? Bakit ganitong kalaki ‘yung kailangan nilang traveling expenses, ‘di ba merong communication, ‘di ba may phone? Internet?” Sotto stressed.
Villar was told by DENR officials present in the session hall that the agency needs to conduct compliance monitoring, hence, the proposed budget for travel.
“They said their offices will perform compliance monitoring and enforcement of the environment and natural resources laws, coordination monitoring, evaluation and validation of the programs, projects and activities and extension services of the whole Department of [Environment] and Natural Resources,” she said.
“If I may add, it’s really something that we always talk about, the extent of the PS (personnel services) and the overhead as a portion of the general budget, that has been the concern of us and I’m not surprised that big portion of the overhead would be the traveling expenses,” she added.
Sotto said he will leave it to the Senate as a body to “validate the necessity” of the DENR’s proposed amount for travel expenses.
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