The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is seeking a P25.29-billion budget for 2022 to bankroll programs that will steer the national government's agenda toward green growth.

Secretary Roy A. Cimatu presented the DENR’s 2022 proposed budget during the budget hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations on Monday, Sept. 13.

Cimatu said the proposed budget will help the department fulfill its water resilience and water security programs to adapt to climate change and recover from the setback caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We shall be focusing on the strategic thrust of water resilience and water security to heighten integrated watershed management, promote sustainable livelihood for the upland communities, address pollution, protect wildlife and biodiversity," he pointed out.

Cimatu underscored the need for the government to pursue transformative actions by embracing green growth in addressing the unprecedented tasks toward recovery.

"The DENR’s thrust in 2022 will strengthen the foundation for strategic investments in nature that is seen to promote not just economic growth, but green growth for a more equitable and sustainable future for the country," he said.

The DENR chief said that priority support will also be given to 24 provinces with high susceptibility to climate hazards and high poverty incidences. These are Masbate, Sorsogon, Negros Oriental, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Western Samar, Sarangani, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Zamboanga del Norte , Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Sulu, Lanao del Sur, Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Catanduanes and Siquijor.

Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Iloilo, and Metro Davao are also part of the "priority geographic focus" to address the carrying capacities of these major urban hubs.

During the budget deliberation, DENR Undersecretary for Finance, Information Systems and Climate Change Atty. Analiza Rebuelta-Teh said the DENR’s proposed budget is 7 percent higher than the agency’s 2021 approved budget of P23.59 billion.

Based on the DENR's proposed budget, P9.7 billion will be allocated to its 10 priority programs consisting of the Enhanced National Greening Program, P3.7 billion; Enhanced Biodiversity Conservation, P1.01 billion; Manila Bay Rehabilitation, P1.67 billion; Solid Waste Management, P1.07 billion; Clean Air, P143 million; Clean Water, P315.49 million; Intensified Forest Protection and Anti-illegal logging, P696.4 million; Improved Land Administration and Management, P415.3 million; Geo-Hazard, Groundwater Assessment and Responsible Mining, P407.7 million; and Scaling Up of Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Programs, P271.8 million.

Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez recommended increasing the DENR's proposed budget, asking Cimatu to submit the DENR's proposed augmentation, particularly for the 10 priority programs.

"That is not fair to the DENR which is working hard for our environment," Rodriguez said.

He lamented over "why only 7 percent" was the increase from DENR’s 2021 budget, citing that the agency has performed well despite a meager budget and the ongoing pandemic.

"We understand that this was due to the limited fiscal space. But we agree with you that we really have to invest more on environment and natural resources management if you want to recover from the pandemic and promote green growth amidst this health crisis, Mr. Chair," Teh said.

For the past 10 years, DENR’s approved budget has been less than 1 percent of the national appropriations.

Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco, Jr. who sponsored the DENR’s proposed budget, has supported Rodriguez’s proposal.

Haresco also pointed out that Buhay Partylist Rep. Jose Atienza backed the additional appropriations for the DENR's proposed budget for 2022. ###