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Pacquiao fight just as important as DENR budget - Atienza

December 9, 2008 3:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — Environment Secretary Jose Atienza Jr. on Tuesday denied neglecting the concerns of his department when he went on a four-day leave to attend boxing champion Manny Pacquiao’s fight in Las Vegas.

Before proceeding to the Senate after attending a Cabinet meeting in Malacaňang, Atienza said his decision to fly to Las Vegas to personally lend his support and watch Pacquio's match against "Golden Boy" Oscar Dela Hoya did not mean he sacrificed the department. He said he found it necessary to be with “People's Champ" who was facing the "most important fight in his career."

As such, Atienza said, it was improper to compare the importance of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) budget with Pacquiao as both are important matters.

"Mahalaga iyung budget at iyan naman ay naniniwala akong handing-handa naman ang aking departmento na ipagtanggol iyung budget naming. Samantala mahalaga din naman si Manny, you cannot belittle the importance or the value of what Manny gives to the country so ayokong i-compare iyan, magkaiba iyan e (The DENR budget is important and I made sure that my department was ready to defend it. Manny’s fight was also very important. You cannot belittle the importance or the value of what Manny gives to the country so ayokong i-compare iyan, magkaiba iyan," he said.

Atienza said he made sure that those he would leave behind were well-prepared to defend the budget when it was time to be heard in the Senate.

Senators have threatened to give the DENR a P1 budget instead of its proposed P12 billion proposal for 2009 after the lawmakers were irked with Atienza's absence. They said they felt he gave more priority to the fight of Paquiao than in defending his agency's budget.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said several senators wanted to reprimand Atienza during the deliberation of their budget, which has been placed last in the list of agencies.

Atienza expressed belief that everything would be cleared when he goes to the Senate and explain his side.

He denied that he was forced to cut short his trip in the US to attend the hearing, saying he had been scheduled to fly back to Manila after the match, which he did.

"Naka-schedule akong umuwi talaga, right after the fight to come home and of course to resume my functions as secretary of environment at I went on leave ha, mind you, nag-leave ako ng apat na araw para dito sa responsibiliting ito. I consider it a responsibility because Manny was facing his most important fight in his career," he said.

The Senate on Tuesday started deliberations on the proposed budgets of Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to be followed by the Office of the Ombudsman. - GMANews.TV
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