Legarda urges House to pass expanded law protecting natural reserves, parks
MANILA — Senator Loren Legarda called out fellow lawmakers in the House of Representatives for withholding protection to some 100 natural reserves against to destructive activities like mining.
She urged the House to immediately pass the proposed Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act that would strengthen the conservation of biodiversity-critical areas.
The House has dragged its feet on the measure for one and a half years since the Senate passed the law last July. Congress will adjourn in March.
“Through this proposed measure, local communities and stakeholders will be able to do more to participate in the management and protection of our forests, oceans, flora, fauna and the indigenous peoples that reside in these sanctuaries,” said Legarda who authored the law.
“I hope our colleagues in the House of Representatives will be able to pass the ENIPAS bill before session adjourns,” she added in a news conference Wednesday with environmental groups led by Oceana Philippines, Haribon Foundation and Pusod Inc..
The law seeks to integrate practical measures to strengthen the 23-year old National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992 covering areas with rare and endangered species of plans and animals and unique ecosystem.
It also widens the coverage of protected areas, adding 96 more protected areas to the existing 13 legislated national parks.
Without the law, protected areas remain vulnerable to destructive exploitation such as mining.
At present, there are 113 proclaimed protected areas in the country such as the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Chocolate Hills Natural Monument in Bohol, Taal Volcano Protected Landscape in Batangas and the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindanao’s Agusan Basin.
Legarda said the proposed ENIPAS would help the conservation of other critical areas that have been under-protected, including open seas, coastal areas, wetlands and tropical forests.
Under the law, each protected area has a Protected Area Management Bureau (PAMB) that oversees conservation.
Legarda, who also chairs the Senate finance committee, introduced a provision in the national budget mandating all government agencies and local government units to include biodiversity protection programs in their programs.
“We are doing every possible action for the protection of our biodiversity but we need the ENIPAS Law to ensure that the conservation of specific protected areas in the country is prioritized, strongly supported, and incorporated in development plans and programs of both the national government and LGUs,” she said. SFM
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