MANILA— Sen. Cynthia Villar on Friday told the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) not to allot funding for the clean-up of the Las Piñas-Zapote river, saying she has already shouldered the clearing of the waterway for nearly a decade.
"We don't need you. Just focus your attention on other rivers that need you," Villar told Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu during a budget hearing.
The DENR should not allot funds for the Las Piñas-Zapote river in its proposed 2021 budget so that the national government does not take credit for its clean-up, she said.
"I have worked so hard to clean up this river, and I did it without the help of DENR... so please remove this from your targets," said the senator, whose bailiwick is Las Piñas City.
"Baka sabihin nung mga tao mo sa inyo sila naglinis noon. Hindi kaya mag-focus na lang kayo sa Pasig River kasi malaki problema ng Pasig River," she said.
(Your staff might say that they were the ones who cleaned that up. Why not focus on the Pasig River because it's a bigger problem.)
In the early 2000s, Villar launched the Las Piñas River Rehabilitation Program and spearheaded annual celebrations of the Las Piñas-Zapote River Festival.
In 2016, Villar - who also served as Las Piñas representative - launched the Zapote River Drive, a road along the said river which starts from the Zapote Bridge and ends at the Molino Dam.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said his home province Iloilo would gladly take the fund Villar is letting go.
"Replace that with the river in Iloilo kasi hanggang ngayon kailangan pa din namin ng tulong (because until now, we need help)," he said, noting that informal settlers living along rivers and animal farming near streams continue to pollute waterways in his home province.
Cimatu told senators that the Pasig River remains to be a priority of his agency.
"The mouth of the Pasig river is in Baseco and Parola," he said.
"Nandiyan ang informal settlers (informal settlers are there) so that is our priority," he said.
The DENR is asking for a P25.5-billion funding in 2021.
While the COVID-19 pandemic remains top priority, funding for the environment should also be sustained as viruses usually emerge due to environment-related issues, Cimatu said.