Press Release
November 19, 2013

Sponsorship Speech of Senator Legarda
for the Budget of Agencies under Finance Sub-Committee C

"Rebuilding Strong and Resilient Filipino Communities"

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues,

It is my privilege to sponsor the budget of the agencies under Finance Sub-committee "C" consisting of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of National Defense (DND), and selected agencies under Other Executive Offices--the Anti-Money Laundering Council, Climate Change Commission, Commission on Filipinos Overseas, Commission on the Filipino Language, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Recently, I was given the honor to lead the Philippine delegation to the 37th General Conference of UNESCO in Paris, France. The Philippines' Policy Statement which I delivered mirrored the primacy of environmental protection, disaster risk reduction and preparedness, cultural and heritage promotion and preservation, peace building and sustainable development. These are some of the key thrusts of the agencies whose budget I will be sponsoring.

This year, we have so far experienced 25 typhoons--the strongest of which, Supertyphoon Yolanda, internationally known as Haiyan, mercilessly pounded the Philippines so close to the heels of a powerful earthquake that rocked Central Visayas.

More than 3,000 have perished and three million lives, altered.

On October 15, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake with an epicentre at Sagbayan, Bohol, released energy reportedly equivalent to 32 Hiroshima atomic bombs. It killed at least 222 individuals and destroyed homes and infrastructure, including centuries-old churches.

It would be fatal to think that the only task at hand is that of providing relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Obviously, after registering the single deadliest disaster in the world in 2012 with 1,901 dead, much work remains to be done in building safe and resilient communities. A vital component of this colossal task is a climate-sensitive and disaster risk reduction-proofed budget.

For the Department of National Defense (DND), a budget worth P82,245,071,000 is proposed. The Department has the 4th biggest budget based on the National Expenditure Program.

The DND is among the agencies integral to building a resilient nation. The continuing modernization of the AFP should be sufficiently funded without delay. The defense of this country starts at home, and we must provide our AFP the wherewithal to fulfill its mandate of protecting the Filipino people not only from external and internal threats, but also from the destructive consequences of natural hazards.

The DND is the mother agency of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which is the lead office in our resiliency efforts; and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, whose soldiers play an important role in rescue and relief efforts, as well as in environmental protection activities.

The gallant efforts of our soldiers to protect our nation and citizens should not go unnoticed; thus, we have supported the increase in their subsistence allowance.

I would also like to stress on the crucial role of the NDRRMC in averting disasters and strengthening community resilience. Under the DND budget, P670,603,000 will be allotted for the Office of Civil Defense, which is the Secretariat of the NDRRMC.

In line with this and in accordance with Republic Act No. 10121, The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, the term calamity fund will be replaced by "National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund". This will ensure that funding will be provided to prevent the loss of lives and to prevent natural hazards from turning into disasters. Still, much needs to be done in terms of organizing our DRRM efforts. We must endeavor to prevent huge losses by strengthening risk governance, promoting awareness and education, and strengthening early warning and response preparedness.

Mr. President,

Environmental protection and conservation efforts form part of an effective disaster resilience plan. I have said it time and again that as an archipelagic country, the Philippines is at heightened risk. Seventy percent of our cities and municipalities are in coastal areas, thus, they are highly vulnerable to tropical storms, tsunamis, flooding and storm surges. We must therefore strengthen our communities' natural protection from hazards.

Mangrove reforestation and rehabilitation of coastal wetlands will help coastal barangays strengthen their natural protection from storm surges. Coastal and marine management under the DENR should be given full support in the light of the rapid Philippine ecosystem's rapid decline.

The proposed budget for the DENR is P23,345,621,000, which includes approximately P6 Billion for the National Greening Program (NGP).

The budget for the NGP includes P2.488 Billion for seedlings, planting activities, and site maintenance and protection. With this amount, we can purchase 164,646,538 seedlings to be planted on 300,000 hectares of land.

The National Greening Program, which has covered a total of 350,321 hectares since its commencement, must be implemented at full speed and the DENR must encourage parallel efforts and enter into partnerships with our state universities and colleges (SUCs) and private organizations.

The DENR budget also includes P10 Million for the Development, Updating and Implementation of the Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Management Strategy pursuant to the Supreme Court Decision under GR No. 171947-48.

Your Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has been briefed by agencies tasked by the Supreme Court to operationalize the Manila Bay Clean-up and while we take note of the challenges, we must not further delay this program because the Manila Bay affects the life and livelihood of at least 23 million Filipinos and the Bay's polluted waters affect the health of those living within its watershed. The Manila Bay should not continue to exist in squalor.

Meanwhile, in the area of cultural and heritage preservation and promotion, we need to actively showcase our colorful and diverse traditions locally and beyond. A flourishing arts and culture serves as a tribute to the greatness of our people. We need a cultural renaissance as this can serve as a positive rallying point for our people who are spread across the globe in more than 120 countries.

Without a doubt, the Filipino artistry and culture, especially that of our indigenous peoples, would leave other nations in awe. Hence, we encourage the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to strengthen cultural diplomacy.

We have allocated P12,130,738,000 for the DFA to support its mandate of promoting the country's foreign policy and protecting the interest and concerns of Filipino overseas workers and migrants, as well as to engage the international community on a cultural level.

Meanwhile, local efforts to promote and preserve our heritage, as well as to showcase the outstanding skills and document the traditional knowledge of our indigenous communities, should continuously flourish. It is in this regard that we have provided the following budget allocations for cultural agencies:

  • P83.5 Million for the Commission on Filipinos Overseas;

  • P49.74 Million for the Commission on the Filipino Language; and,

  • P877.66 Million for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

For the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, we are proposing P29.28 Million for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts; P352 Million for the National Historical Commission of the Philippines; P194 Million for the National Library; and, P102 Million for the National Archives.

Moving on to the budget for the Department of Justice, we have allocated P10,814,658,000 to support the law enforcement capabilities and improved infrastructure facilities for its attached agencies such as the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Immigration, and Bureau of Corrections, among other agencies. We have also proposed funding for the information drive of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

Mr. President, for other executive offices under Finance Subcommittee "C", the following budget allocations have been proposed:

  • P28.605 Million for the Anti-Money Laundering Council;

  • P81.827 Million for the Climate Change Commission; and,

  • P468.278 Million for the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.

Furthermore, Subcommittee "C" allocated P234 Million for the Cultural Center of the Philippines; while P4.815 Billion is being proposed for the International Commitments Fund.

In closing, Mr. President, I wish to highlight that at the core of our efforts in heritage conservation and management, peace building, and in promoting sustainable development is engagement with communities, and private-public-people partnerships. The government works for the people and with the people and so we must craft a national budget that will equip our countrymen with the means to stand strong in the face of highly destructive natural hazards; create resilient and safe communities; and build a more peaceful society where citizens are deeply steeped in their arts and culture, reflecting the true Filipino soul.

Thank you.

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