January 25, 2022 @ 10:09 AM 8 months ago

I am back from a brief hiatus. These past two months, I had to focus my attention on preparing the journal on the Senate’s plenary deliberations on the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2022. The Journal of the Senate is my office’s constitutionally-mandated output. After two months of writing, proofreading, and editing, of sleepless nights and endless cups of coffee, I wrapped up editing only yesterday. My office would be coming out this week with a Senate Journal as thick as a book, as we always do when the GAA is discussed in plenary toward the end of every year.

Anyone who would want to know about the past and future budgets, plans, programs, and accomplishments of an agency of government can look at the Senate Journal which is a summary of the plenary deliberations. The Journals are uploaded in the Senate website a few days after approval by the senators.

This year’s plenary deliberations went smoothly, except for the unexpected occurrence when Senator Cynthia Villar, sponsor of the 2022 budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, requested a suspension of the Senate Rules to allow Secretary Roy Cimatu to directly address her concerns about the reclamation project in the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park. The protocol is for the department heads to be allowed to answer questions only through the committee or subcommittee chairperson. Just the same, Senator Villar ably defended the department’s budget and urged the Body to approve it.

Senate President Vicente Sotto likewise made queries regarding the illegal quarrying in Poblacion 5, going to Barangay Miranda up to the boundary of Barangay Banga in Talisay, Batangas, as well as the huge budget for the travel expenses of the department. Senator Villar expressed the DENR’s response that both matters had already been addressed.

But what was lengthily discussed during the period of interpellations was the department’s Solid Waste Management Program (SWMP) under Undersecretary Benny Antiporda which has as its arm the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) with a budget of P1.5 billion. Senator Villar said that a portion of its P1.5 billion budget would be allocated for a waste-to-energy facility that will be constructed in Davao City in partnership with the Japanese government which will co-finance 50% of the P1.5 billion cost of construction.

It will be the DENR’s first time to build a waste-to-energy facility which is similar to a small power plant. The DENR is hopeful that the facility will become a good model and a forerunner of similar Japan-aided projects. Three cities are involved in the said project—Davao City, where the pilot implementation will begin; Cebu City; and Quezon City.

The rest of the budget of the SWMP will be allotted for the procurement of composting machines worth P800,000 each which will be distributed to 146 cities and 81 provinces as part of the management of health wastes.

Senator Pia Cayetano welcomed the report on the DENR’s plans on medical waste disposal. She said that she understands the difficulties of the project but hoped that the long overdue project would be implemented as soon as possible. Senator Villar said the DENR has a good working relationship with the DOST that has a design of the facility.

Senator Francis Tolentino lauded Secretary Cimatu for the Boracay cleanup project as well as the ongoing Manila Bay cleanup project.

Overall, the senators lauded the department for their accomplishments especially during the pandemic.