Use DENR funds for rivers other than Las Piñas-Zapote –Villar

Published October 9, 2020, 10:12 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Cynthia Villar on Friday advised the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to redirect to more polluted rivers in the country its proposed funds for the clean-up of the Las Piñas-Zapote River.

Sen. Cynthia Villar (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

During the Senate finance subcommittee’s deliberation of the DENR’s proposed 2021 budget, Villar said the rehabilitation of the Las Piñas-Zapote River does not need funding from the national government as she said she and her family have been spending on it for nearly a decade.

“Remove us from here, baka sabihin ng mga tao mo sila naglinis ng Las Piñas-Zapote River as a performance, eh tanggalin mo ‘yon kasi hindi sila ang naglinis no’n,” Villar, who is set to sponsor the DENR budget, told Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

“I’ve been doing this for the last seven years, eight years. So we don’t need you.”

“Baka sabihin nila gawa nila. Hindi sila tumulong doon, kami naglinis noon,” she pointed out.

Villar said that under the agency’s P25.5-billion proposed 2021 budget, the DENR has allocated funds for desilting the Las Piñas-Zapote River. She did not specify the amount.

But she said they can manage, as they have been doing for years for their hometown Las Piñas City.

“We can take care of the Las Piñas-Zapote River. We have been cleaning it for the last seven years. We have constructed a 20-kilometer river drive already and were finishing another five-kilometer so don’t worry about the Las Piñas-Zapote River. We have done it,” she said.

Villar said the DENR could focus on rehabilitating the Pasig River, “because it has more problems than [ours].”

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Iloilo River could also receive the funds that Villar has rejected, saying his home city Iloilo is still faced with budget constraints in rehabilitating it.

Drilon also cited challenges in the resettlement of informal settlers and removal of commercial establishments along the waterway.

Cimatu said Pasig River continues to be a priority of the DENR. He also said that the rehabilitation of the Iloilo River serves as the “model” for this effort.

In 2002, Villar, former Las Piñas City representative, along with her husband, former Senate President Manny Villar, initiated the “Sagip Ilog” project to resuscitate the Las Piñas and Zapote Rivers thru the collection of garbage, plastics and water lilies in the river.

The project was recognized by the United Nations, giving it a “Best Practices Award” in 2011.