MANILA - Sen. Raffy Tulfo questioned the foreign trips and travel expenses of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Sec. Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga in 2023.
According to Tulfo, the DENR spent P1.1 billion for the foreign trips of its officials for 2023, while it will be allocating P1.173 billion for foreign trips in 2024.
“Ang gusto ko lang po malaman, paano nagastos itong P1.1 billion nung 2023, ano po ang nagbunga sa mga trips na ito at meron po kasi akong natanggap na mga reklamo mula mismo sa mga taga-DENR na yung secretary daw po ng DENR ay isang jetsetter na this year alone or starting nugn siya at ma-appoint, umabot daw po sa 13 to 14 times yung kanyang foreign trips,” Tulfo asked.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, the budget sponsor of the DENR, explained that the budget was not solely spent by Sec. Yulo-Loyzaga.
“The GAA budget spent for travel in 2023 is P1.1 billion but it includes the foreign travel of the office of the secretary, including four staff bureau, it doesn’t all fall under the office of the secretary,” Villar explained.
Sen. Tulfo initially asked the Senate to suspend its rules to directly ask questions to DENR Sec. Yulo-Loyzaga but after a few minutes suspension of the session, he withdrew his motion.
Tulfo also asked Villar on the benefits of the foreign trips of the DENR secretary.
According to Tulfo, Yulo-Loyzaga had more or less 12 to 13 foreign trips using her diplomatic passport.
Villar explained that Yulo-Loyzaga travelled abroad for 2023 as part of her ministerial duty as the DENR secretary and these include her trips to the United Nations, the Asia Pacific Ministerial conference for disaster risk reduction, UN framework on climate change, UN biodiversity in Montreal and UN water conference in New York among others.
“Sinasabi po na lahat ng trip na yan is ministerial level, she has to go and she has the approval of the president kasi may mga conference na dapat yung secretary of DENR should go ay meron namang mga conference na puwedeng mag-send lang siya ng representative. Ito ay disaster risk reduction, UN climate change conference, invitation of UAE for the disaster risk reduction and another climate change conference,” Villar said.
Villar assured Tulfo that whatever DENR orders and policies learned from their foreign trips are incorporated in their formulation of policies.
Tulfo meanwhile suggested to the DENR that instead of having foreign trips, it should focus on basic programs like the national greening program which has more than P2 billion budget every year.
“Yun ang aming strategy sa greening program, we know that it is very important because it is the solution to our problem with climate change, kailangan may mga puno para ma-control yung pag-flow ng water from the mountains to the people, ang tawag d’yan reforestation and taking care of the forest para ma-mitigate ang climate change,” Villar replied.