SENATOR Cynthia Villar has pushed to increase the proposed budget for the development of the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA), a wetland situated in the Manila Bay recognized by the Ramsar Convention as one of the world's most important.
Villar, after learning that the proposed P20.849 billion budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) only includes a P2.2 million budget for LPPCHEA, lamented that the department is in effect making the protection of the habitat a non-priority.
"The proposed budget for next year actually decreased from 2014's P3.5 million budget; and the P2.2 million is only meant for personal services.
There is no budget for the conservation and enhancement of the area," Villar stressed during the DENR budget hearing at the Senate.
Villar said DENR should assign a budget for the creation of a mangrove nursery and laboratory in the area and to support clean-up operations to augment the efforts of the private sector and the Las Piñas and Paranaque community.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said they have acquired a trash boat for LPPCHEA and 20 more trash boats to be distributed in different areas of Manila Bay to address the garbage problem.
Villar said in the same amount of P2 million per trash boat, equipment can be purchased to recycle the solid wastes collected from LPPCHEA.
LPPCHEA is also a bird sanctuary visited by migratory and endangered species such as the Philippine duck, the Chinese egret, and the black-winged stilt.
It boasts of 30-hectare mangrove forest.
The Nacionalista Party senator stressed that given the area's stature as a wetland of international importance as well as a showcase of a conservation area for biodiversity, there are no permanent plantilla positions for LPPCHEA.
"At present, the staff complement composed of one manager, one biologist, 1 administrative officer, 10 farm workers and one driver. They cannot take care of the whole 175-hectare area," she said.
Villar said DENR should make it a priority to protect LPPCHEA and develop it as an alternative urban recreation destination in the Metro Manila. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)