Solon sees chance for passage of 2 ‘pivotal’ forest bills in 18th Congress
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker has expressed optimism that two bills, which promote forest protection, would finally be passed in the 18th Congress.
Bukidnon 1st District Rep. Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba said the proposed Forestland Limits Act (House Bill No. 7496) and the Sustainable Forest Management Act (HB 9088) failed to secure approval and become law during the 17th Congress, and will have to be refiled again.
Although the House of Representatives passed the two proposed measures in May, the Senate was not able to approve them.
“Two historic and pivotal forest protection bills were approved at the House of Representatives 32 years after Sections 3 and 4 of Article XII of 1987 Constitution gave Congress the crucial mission,” Acosta-Alba noted in a Thursday.
“In the 18th Congress, I am hopeful that with five Mindanaoans in the Senate and with Senators Ralph Recto, Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar, and returning Senator Pia Cayetano as authors of forest bills, we have strong support in the Senate for the passage of the Forestland Limits bill and Sustainable Forest Management bill,” she added.
The congresswoman explained that in both chambers of Congress, lawmakers may opt to refile the bills in the 18th Congress or incorporate provisions of the measure into their current bills for faster approval.
HB 7496 provides guidelines in determining the limits and boundaries of forestlands in the country. It mandates the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ensure that forest cover and vegetation within these forestlands are protected, preserved, and enhanced.
Meanwhile, HB 9088 generally aims to “optimize the utilization of forest resources to support the sustainable development of the country by providing equitable access and benefit sharing to stakeholders.” It also proposes the creation of a Sustainable Forest Development Fund that would provide concessional funding for forest development projects.
Acosta-Alba said Bukidnon “badly needs” these two forest protection bills since the province has two watershed forest reserves and 202 thousand hectares of forest cover.
“These watershed forest reserves are our natural sources of fresh water for potable household use and for irrigation. They also protect our province from floods. We cannot lose them to degradation. That is not an option,” she pointed out. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)